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Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer > Blog > Personal Injury > What Role Does Expert Witness Testimony Play in Personal Injury Lawsuits in Florida?

What Role Does Expert Witness Testimony Play in Personal Injury Lawsuits in Florida?

Personal Injury Lawsuits

If you were involved in an accident that was not your fault, you might be aware that Florida law protects your interests. You have remedies to recover compensation for your losses, as long as you meet the legal requirements. The criteria are strict, and the accident victim bears the burden of proving the case. Various types of evidence are essential for establishing the facts in your claim, including the contributions of expert witnesses. Accident attorneys frequently rely on various professionals to provide support, so you should understand the role expert witness testimony plays in personal injury lawsuits in Florida.

With many accident cases, the standard in the practice of law is negligence. The term means more than just carelessness because it is a theory of liability in personal injury matters. To receive monetary damages for your losses, you must prove that the accident occurred because the at-fault party failed to exercise reasonable care. The concepts of reasonable care, fault, and compensation can be convoluted for multiple reasons, especially with highly technical subject matter in personal injury claims.

Retaining experts to assist with your case will be part of an overall strategy to prove the facts and ensure you receive fair monetary damages. There are many additional tasks that you can trust your Florida personal injury attorney to handle throughout the legal process. Still, some information on what expert witnesses do is useful.

Expert Witnesses and Accident Cases in Florida

A person having a specialized background can provide extensive insight in a legal matter that involves complex topics, including accidents that lead to personal injury lawsuits. These individuals are separate from individuals who might have observed the incident and can testify as an eyewitness. Under Florida’s statute on testimony by experts, these witnesses may provide testimony in court in the form of an opinion when their knowledge, skill, training, and experience would enable the jury to understand the evidence.

There are some specific statutory requirements for experts who testify in a personal injury case. The person must be regularly engaged in the practice of a profession, as well as have a degree and experience in that specialty area. Someone may also qualify as an expert by having specialized skill, training, or knowledge in a particular field.

When an expert does qualify and takes the witness stand, there are criteria for the testimony to be admissible:

  • The expert’s testimony is grounded in sufficient fact and data.
  • The person’s opinion is based upon reliable methods and principles.
  • The expert witness applies the principles reliable to the facts and data at issue in the personal injury case.

Types of Expert Witnesses

There is one type of expert that will participate in almost any personal injury case, and that person is a medical professional. The human body is a complicated machine, making the practice of medicine a highly complex subject. Some topics must be explained in a way that people without medical backgrounds can understand, particularly when they are serving on the jury in your case.

Depending on how you were injured, there may be additional experts involved with your case.

  • Accident Reconstruction Experts: These professionals use physical facts taken from the scene of an accident and analyze them to demonstrate exactly how the incident happened. The accident reconstruction expert may visit the scene to gather evidence, and then use software to create a visual depiction of the accident. Most often, these experts participate in traffic crashes and slip and fall cases.
  • Financial Analysts: Some damages are easily calculated because they can be measured by receipts, invoices, tax information, and other documents. A financial analyst is a professional that applies formulas and models to assess losses that are intangible and not easy to apply a dollar value.
  • Occupational and Vocational Experts: An injury-causing accident might prevent you from working in the long term. You may be unable to work in your chosen field again if you suffer ongoing complications from your injuries.

How an Expert Witness Supports Your Case in Florida

Most personal injury lawsuits are based upon the concept of negligence, which requires the plaintiff to prove four essential elements:

  1. The at-fault party had a duty to exercise reasonable care and not engage in actions that could cause an accident.
  2. The person or entity breached this duty of care through unsafe misconduct.
  3. The breach of duty was the direct cause of the accident in which you were hurt.
  4. You suffered losses because of your injuries.

Proving Fault: Accident reconstruction experts can play a powerful role with proving the elements related to fault. Their assessment of the scene and application of physics enables them to provide an opinion on how the accident happened, which gives a view into who was at fault. The input of an accident reconstruction expert is particularly valuable in a wrongful death case, where the key witness for the case is not available to testify about how the incident occurred.

Establishing Losses: The contribution of medical experts is most directly related to element #4 and the losses you suffer. A large portion of your compensation in a personal injury lawsuit is pain and suffering, a personal, subjective factor. You are the only one who endured the physical harm and consequences, so there can be challenges in translating your experience to the minds of the jury. A medical expert is the translator who gives a voice to your pain and suffering, maximizing monetary damages paid to you.

A financial analyst is useful for proving damages that are somewhat blurry because they represent losses that you have not yet experienced. This contribution will be helpful when you are seeking damages for future earning capacity. If you cannot earn the income you did before the accident, you are entitled to what you would have made had the incident never happened. This calculation includes what would be a reasonable retirement age. A financial analyst can also apply formulas regarding your future medical care, so you can recover the amounts you would expect to pay over your lifetime.

Defending Your Rights in a Personal Injury Case in Florida

Proving the essential elements of your lawsuit is your first and most important burden. However, you must also be prepared for defenses that will be raised by the at-fault party and insurance company. The insurer has a large budget and legal team to fight against your allegations, and you can be sure they will hire experts of their own to defend. As a result, the expert witnesses who helped prove your case may also be called to thwart these defenses. For instance, the defendant may claim that you are not entitled to future earning capacity because you can work in another career. Occupational and vocational experts help show your physical limitations and how they affect your future ability to work.

Accident reconstruction experts are useful when it comes to the concept of comparative negligence. In Florida, the actions of the victim are reviewed to see if he or she contributed to the accident in some way. If you were negligent in the sense that you did not exercise reasonable care, your conduct could impact your damages as follows:

  • If you did nothing to contribute to the accident, you receive your full compensation.
  • When you were slightly to blame, your damages are reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to you.
  • If you are viewed as being more than 50 percent at fault in the accident, you are barred from recovering any compensation.

Experts in Florida Medical Malpractice Cases

Though you may not think about medical malpractice as being in this category, these cases are considered a type of personal injury lawsuit. However, the explanation of negligence described above is not applicable in med mal cases. Instead you must prove:

  1. The standard of care that applies in the case, which is how a hypothetical physician in the same medical field would have provided medical care under similar circumstances; and,
  2. How your own physician deviated from this standard of care.

With these two factors, you will need a medical expert for support in your case. In fact, a physician must be involved because you need a doctor’s written opinion about the merits of the case before you can file your medical malpractice lawsuit.

Timeline of Personal Injury Claims

To better understand the role an expert witness plays, you should review the stages of a lawsuit and where an expert would provide services. Your Florida personal injury lawyer may partner with experts for different purposes as well, so they are not limited to just testifying in court.

  • Filing the Insurance Claim: You will need solid, extensive proof in your demand package to request compensation from the insurer. Experts can provide their insights on faults and losses when you file your claim.
  • Mediation: This proceeding is not an official court hearing, but it is an informal session in which the parties meet to discuss settlement. A trained mediator guides the proceeding, encouraging the parties to have productive conversations toward agreement.
  • Trial: An expert witness may be called to the witness stand to answer questions or defend your position.

Count on a South Florida Personal Injury Lawyer for Legal Help

This overview should help you understand what role expert witness testimony plays in personal injury lawsuits in Florida. The information is also useful for realizing the many reasons to retain legal representation for your accident claim. Rosen Injury Law, P.A. works closely with experts to ensure the best outcome in your case, whether the contributions are in the form of testimony or behind-the-scenes support. Please contact our Florida personal injury law firm today to set up a free case review.

Related Content: 7 Unbelievable Personal Injury Lawsuits That Made Headlines

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