What Is an Expert Witness?

Nevada personal injury law recognizes two different types of witnesses—lay witnesses and expert witnesses. Although lay witnesses are far more common, expert witnesses can be critical for certain types of cases. A court must qualify an expert witness before they can testify. Once this happens, however, expert witnesses enjoy far broader discretion to offer testimony. Lawyers also use expert witnesses who will not testify in court.    

Qualifications of Expert Witnesses

Qualifications of Expert Witnesses

There is no single standard of qualification that applies to every type of expert witness. It all depends on the field of expertise A doctor, of course, will need a license to practice medicine. Experts in other fields might need a Ph.D. Publications in professional journals are important, as are professional awards. On the other hand, in certain fields, an expert witness might not need any of these formal qualifications. 

Professional Expert Witnesses

Some expert witnesses practice full-time in their field of expertise, such as a cardiologist. Nevertheless, many professionals find serving as expert witnesses more rewarding than practicing in their chosen profession. These people often become professional expert witnesses who retire from their professional fields and work full-time as witnesses instead. 

Lawyers often prefer professional expert witnesses because these witnesses have expertise in handling hostile cross-examining attorneys. On the other hand, the main disadvantage of hiring an expert witness is that you have to pay them. If the opposing party is not using paid expert witnesses, they will probably make sure the court knows that the witness is being paid for their testimony. Nevertheless, this revelation doesn’t usually affect the outcome of the case. 

Types of Expert Witnesses

Just as you can divide witnesses into the categories of lay witnesses and expert witnesses, you can divide expert witnesses into testifying witnesses and consulting witnesses.

Testifying Witnesses

The purpose of an expert is to-–well, testify. During a lawsuit, a lawyer calling a testifying expert witness must notify the opposing party of the identity of the witness. The opposing party may also cross-examine the witness during deposition and trial.

Consulting Witnesses

A lawyer might hire an expert witness not to testify, but to help the lawyer understand the case better. This motivation applies whether the witness is friendly or hostile to the proposition that the lawyer is trying to prove. 

A friendly witness can greatly assist settlement negotiations even if the claim never goes to court. After all, friendly expert testimony is such powerful evidence that the opposing party might prefer to settle than face your expert in court. Even a hostile witness can help you understand the weaknesses of your case so that you can prepare defenses.

Please note that as long as you use a witness for consultation only, the Nevada rules for expert witnesses don’t require you to notify the opposing party.

Professional Opinion vs. Personal Knowledge

Unlike a lay witness, a testifying expert witness can state their professional opinion on matters within their field of expertise. A lay witness is normally limited to testifying about their personal experiences–what they saw and heard, for example. Disputes may arise as to the exact scope of the expert’s field of expertise and whether the expert’s testimony actually falls within their field of expertise.

Examples of How Lawyers Use Expert Witnesses in Court

Following are some ways in which personal injury attorneys use expert witnesses in court:

  • A medical expert might testify about the severity of the victim’s injuries, the likely extent of their pain and suffering, and the disabilities they are likely to endure.
  • An expert medical witness might testify that the defendant’s actions fell below the generally accepted standard of care.
  • A technical expert might testify that a gadget that is the subject of a product liability lawsuit contains a manufacturing or design defect that renders it unreasonably dangerous.
  • If you are demanding compensation for future lost earnings, a financial expert might estimate the value of these lost earnings.
  • An accident reconstruction specialist might use a commercial truck’s event data recorder to reconstruct a truck accident and state their option on whether the truck driver caused the accident.
  • A doctor might perform an independent medical exam of an accident victim to either corroborate or dispute a medical report that the victim submitted into evidence.

The more technically complex the subject matter, the more likely you will need an expert witness. Remember, however, that the other side might call an expert witness to testify in opposition to your witness. The trial might then devolve into a “battle of the experts.”

A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Find an Expert Witness

An experienced personal injury lawyer probably maintains long-term relationships with many expert witnesses. They can help you find the best one for you. Meanwhile, you don’t need to worry about how you will pay legal fees. Almost all personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you only pay legal fees if you recover compensation. Battle Born Injury Lawyers work on contingency fees, so there is no risk in contacting us. Call our law firm at (702) 570-9000 today.