Whether it’s witnesses on-the-scene or unbiased expert witnesses, clarifying the events that took place during a car accident is imperative to proving a victim’s case. Determining fault can sometimes be a difficult task. However, an attorney can strengthen your case and possibly increase the amount of financial compensation you will receive by hiring an expert witness to provide insight or a testimony.
Brad Parker says, “Witnesses on the scene can be extremely valuable, but it’s hard to prove what they actually saw. It’s best if there are several witnesses to verify the details of the accident.”
Typically, expert witnesses have unique knowledge that is beyond the knowledge of a layperson, and a judge has concluded that their evidence and testimony would both be probative, helpful and relevant to the jury. There have been instances in which juries have decided the entire case based on the testimony of one expert witness and there have been other cases in which juries have ignored the testimony of the expert witness.
They can make determinations about such issues as the speeds of the vehicles at the time of collision, the forces involved on human beings in a low speed impact, or how injuries cause disability and affect a person’s earnings over his or her life. “There are many specific factors that can be examined to determine what happened in an accident…gauge marks in the pavement, the weight of the vehicle and the speed it was traveling. Today almost all new cars have a black box that can also give information about what happened,” Brad says.
A black box, formally known as an event data recorder (EDR), logs a variety of data regarding the operation of the vehicle in which it's installed. EDRs, standard these days in 96 percent of new cars, take note of how fast you're going and whether you're wearing your seat belt, along with details like the status of your car's throttle and brakes at any given moment.
In any case where personal injuries are sustained, the treating physician becomes the “medical expert.” He or she will explain to the jury the anatomy and pathology of your injuries and what pain and suffering would be expected to accompany them. He or she will also speak to what future medical treatment will be necessary, the prognosis and effects on your ability to work and on activities that you enjoyed recreationally.
Used most often when there are possible claims of a defective roadway or inadequate signage, engineering experts have an understanding of the state and federal guidelines on roadway construction and design. “I remember a case involving an accident on the I-35 North Corridor where a contractor had not properly marked construction work on the highway. These are particularly hard cases because if the government is doing the construction, they have immunity,” Brad says.
These experts have training in anatomy, physiology and determining the angles and magnitude of forces necessary to cause injury and can assess what force is necessary to cause injury, how vehicle restraint systems protect occupants and how well vehicle structures (roof, welds, occupant compartments) protect the driver and passengers.
Economic experts are used to help calculate the value of lost income, benefits and future medical expenses that will be necessary as a result of your injuries. There are many issues to be considered in this analysis, including the value of lost promotions, inflation, rising cost of medical care, lost pension benefits and other issues.
Experts such as physical, occupational therapists, case managers, social workers and vocational specialists are used to determine and explain the injuries you sustained and how they will impact your ability to work in the future. This includes looking at whether you will be able to return to your former employment, and if not, whether you can be reeducated or retrained in another occupation. They can also determine how many hours a day and for how many years you will be able to work, when you will be able to return to employment again, and what future limitations you will have working.
As the name implies, an accident reconstructionist will use the physical, testimonial and other evidence to “reconstruct” what actually happened. They can draw conclusions as to the speed of the vehicles involved, the forces created in the collision, visibility of other vehicles when they are signaling, topographic limitations such as hills, curves, or vegetation are considered, and what views each driver would have had leading up to the collision. Reconstructionists often use sophisticated computer software, sometimes creating 3D animation of the accident. “I remember a specific case at Loop 820 and Las Vegas Trail where a motorcycle rear-ended a vehicle but there were no witnesses. An accident reconstructionist was able to prove that the vehicle popped over into the motorcycles lane without warning and caused the accident. His testimony was imperative to winning the case,” Brad says.