Car accidents cost Americans over $871 billion annually. Between damages to the vehicle, medical bills, and mental health, the costs associated with being involved in a car accident are staggering. For many, these bills are overwhelming, life-impacting, and mentally-destructive. Over 70 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, and nearly half of people admit they would have to resort to selling their personal items to cover a $400 charge.
To help pay for the damages associated with car accidents, many accident victims take a car accident case to court. The majority of cases are settled out-of-court via a settlement. However, some people still find themselves in a court battle in front of a judge and jury. During the trial, expert witnesses can be called by attorneys to assist the judge and jury in understanding the finer details of the case. These witnesses can help determine the value of damages, the severity of injuries, or even help the court establish fault.
What Are Expert Witnesses?
According to the Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 702, an expert witness is a person who is “qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.” Generally, expert witnesses are people experienced in a particular field who can provide critical insights into a case. To be clear, expert witnesses don’t have to witness the accident, and they aren’t necessarily the “best in their field.” They’re simply people who are qualified, helpful, and reliable in a particular field that’s relevant to the case.
Car accident cases involve many moving parts. The judge and jury need to determine fault, damages, and injury severity, and this often requires input from these expert witnesses — who have the experience and relevant knowledge to inform the court about complex damage estimates and injury details.
Common Types of Expert Witnesses Involved in Car Accident Cases
The following are all types of expert witnesses that are regularly involved in car accident cases:
- Medical Experts: Over 3 million people are injured in car accidents each year. These injuries can be life-altering, disruptive, and financially-draining to the victim. Medical experts provide insights into the type of injuries sustained in the accident, how those injuries impact day-to-day life, and the overall costs of those injuries to the plaintiff or defendant.
- Accounting Experts: Car accidents often involve a convergence of costs. From the physical damages to the car itself to lost work time, medical bills, and mental health charges, trying to pinpoint an accurate monetary figure to a car accident is challenging. Accounting experts (or Economist experts) exist to help the judge or jury understand the full extent of damages to the plaintiff. Economic experts are regular fare in car accident cases, and around 12 percent of all accountants in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants serve as expert witnesses.
- Accident Reconstructionist: One of the biggest components of a car accident case is “fault.” Accident reconstructionists (or collision reconstructionists) are specialized individuals who can review the accident evidence and determine how the accident took place. Usually, this involves a combination of crash pictures, police reports, GPS data, eyewitnesses, and vehicle positioning. The accident reconstructionist may recreate the entire accident in video form, and they can be incredible assets in both court cases and insurance claims.
- Mental Health Experts: Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes of mental disorders like PTSD. Recent research suggests that over 39 percent of car accident survivors experience PTSD, and up to one-third experience depression and anxiety related to the accident. Mental health experts can weigh in on any mental health issues facing the plaintiff.
- Telecoms Expert: Cellphones are involved in one out of every four car accidents. Texting and driving is incredibly dangerous, and it takes an average of 13 seconds for your brain to readjust to your surroundings after staring at a screen. Telecoms experts can provide detailed call and text records to determine if cellular devices played a role in the accident — which can help determine fault.
- Engineering Expert: Sometimes, public infrastructure can play a role in an accident. Engineering experts provide critical details regarding road design, bridge construction, and vehicle design.
Depending on the nature of your collision, you may also require additional types of expert witnesses that fall outside of this core group. These may include vocational experts, additional financial experts, and specialized medical experts.
The Role of Expert Witnesses in Court Cases and Beyond
When most people think of expert witnesses, they imagine long, TV-like court battles and decorated experts that provide last-minute details that change the outcome of the case. The reality is a little less dramatic. Expert witnesses are often involved in car accident cases pre-trial, and they regularly have an impact on any settlements. In addition, expert witnesses can provide assistance to lawyers in determining damage amounts during the pre-settlement process, and they can also get involved in disputes with your insurance company.
In other words, expert witnesses have plenty of roles in a car accident case, and they may be involved even if you’re planning on settling the case. Not all car accident cases require expert witnesses. But they’re often employed when a case deals with complicated financial figures or non-agreement on fault.
Get a Free Consultation Regarding Your Car Accident Claim
Have you been involved in a car accident? Chances are, your life has changed dramatically since that accident took place. You may be dealing with a mountain of bills, medical debt, and mental health charges. In addition, you may have suffered non-fatal injuries that are impacting your day-to-day life. Expert witnesses may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve and put a figure on your tricky case.
If you’ve recently been in a car accident involving damages, you need a car accident attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact Alvendia, Kelly & Demarest online or at 504-200-0000 for a free consultation. We fight for our clients.