Vehicle accidents are not uncommon throughout the state of Arizona. According to the state Department of Transportation, there were nearly 130,000 total vehicle collisions during the latest reporting year across the state. Unfortunately, nearly 54,000 people were injured and 982 people lost their lives. Injury victims should be able to secure compensation when another driver causes a crash. Likewise, family members who have lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another driver should be able to secure compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. Often, you will hear that accident victims and their attorneys are working with an expert witness in order to help secure the compensation they deserve. Here, we want to discuss what an expert witness is in a car accident claim.
Understanding the Need for Expert Witnesses
Anytime you hear the term “expert witness” in a movie or on a TV show, it generally involves someone testifying in a courtroom in some sort of dramatic fashion. However, expert witnesses are used regularly in cases, and they provide valuable information that can be used by crash victims, insurance carriers, and juries when working to determine the facts of the case.
An expert witness is very different from an eyewitness. Eyewitnesses are those who actually witnessed the vehicle accident occur and provide valuable testimony about what they saw happen.
An expert witness, however, comes into the picture after the accident occurs. Their purpose is to help insurance carriers, attorneys, judges, and jury members understand complex concepts that delve beyond general car accident knowledge.
Expert witnesses are called in anytime the injury claim hinges on the question of “fault.” In other words, if it cannot be determined who was at fault for the incident, an expert witness may be called in to conduct a complete investigation into the entire crash or a very specific cause of the crash.
Vehicle accidents can be technical in nature because they usually involve more than one complex piece of machinery (vehicles). Fault for an accident may come down to how this machinery interacted with the roadway itself and any other external inputs, including the weather, distractions, debris on the roadway, etc. An expert witness may testify about how all these aspects played a role in the crash. In offering their testimony, this will help the various parties involved understand what caused the crash.
Additionally, expert witnesses may also be used to provide testimony about the value of the damages in the car accident case. If an injury victim claims to have suffered $200,000 in damages, the court will need to know whether or not that amount is reasonable and accurate.
Some of the most common expert witnesses used in these cases include the following:
- Accident reconstructionist
- Highway safety experts
- Medical experts
- Engineering experts
- Mental health experts
An Expert Witness May Never Go to Court
As we mentioned, most people have seen expert witnesses testify on TV shows or in the movies. However, the vast majority of vehicle accident claims never go all the way to trial. Most of them are settled during the insurance claim process or between two attorneys after a lawsuit has been filed. Even if a claim does not go to trial, an expert witness can still provide testimony that could push both sides towards a settlement.
An expert witness may consult with a Phoenix car accident attorney on the case to help prepare the claim. As the expert witness provides evidence to back up what they believe, and as this evidence is turned over during the discovery process, both sides may decide that it is in their best interest to settle a claim before it goes to trial. After all, placing the matter in the hands of a jury can be risky for both sides. A jury may decide to award a settlement amount far above what the defendant is willing to pay – or they may decide that the plaintiff should receive no compensation at all.