“Expert witness” is one of those terms that trial lawyers use often, but it doesn’t mean much to our clients. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about experts and how they are used in a personal injury case.

What is an expert witness?

An “expert witness” is a person who is hired to review the facts of a particular aspect of a legal case, and give opinions based on their education and experience.

In some cases – like if a person was very badly hurt in a multi-vehicle crash –  we might hire an expert to help us investigate and document the scene. Other times, we won’t need to hire an expert to review records or evidence until after we file a lawsuit.

What does an expert witness actually do in a personal injury case?

Expert witnesses review the facts of the case, and prepare a report based on their professional opinions. For example, in a personal injury case, the expert witness might be a nurse practitioner who can review all the medical records.

Or, an expert witness might simply answer questions in a deposition (an in-person interview of a party or witness, conducted under oath), or at a trial. The purpose of experts at trial is to help the jury understand the case.

Personal-injury-case-expert-witness

An “expert witness” is a person who is hired to review the facts of a particular aspect of a legal case, and give opinions based on their education and experience.

Who picks the expert witness?

The lawyer for the plaintiff (injured person) and the lawyer for the defendant (caused the injury) each submit a list of potential expert witnesses to the court.

Naming experts is an important part of a good litigation strategy. One of the reasons it really helps to have a local personal injury lawyer: they know which expert witnesses to call.

Who can be an expert witness?

In federal court, a qualified expert witness must have knowledge, skill, education, experience, or training in a specialized field.

In Washington State court, the rules are a little different. A person with scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge that could help the judge or jury understand the evidence or facts can give an opinion as an expert witness.

For example, in a semi-truck crash case, we used the defendant truck driver and motor carrier safety director as expert witnesses. Under Washington State rules, they were qualified to give an opinion. We named them as expert witnesses. They had to outline the rules, regulations and standards that they were supposed to follow.