An expert witness is one that will offer opinions to assist the judge and jury by explaining issues that require specialized knowledge and/or experience.
Kentucky Rule of Evidence number 702 discusses testimony by experts and states that:
If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.
Although some criminal cases utilize expert witnesses, this article will focus on the use of expert testimony in civil (injury) cases. Expert witnesses are often used by Kentucky attorneys in:
- Medical malpractice cases
- Wrongful death cases
- Personal injury cases
- Nursing home neglect/abuse cases
- Product liability cases
Prior to a lawsuit being filed, Kentucky attorneys that practice injury and medical malpractice cases will often consult with one or more experts to help determine if a valid case that merits pursuit exists. Sometimes an expert is most helpful by letting the lawyer know that no valid case exists before the injured person gets their hopes up and before the lawyer spends a great deal of time and money only to eventually learn that the case is not going to be successfully pursued.
Expert witnesses may just consult with the attorney or may be willing to testify in both deposition and in court at trial.
Expert witnesses help the lawyers clarify issues, determine the appropriate specialists needed to prove the case and can help with tactics and strategy. Experts also help the attorney understand the case’s weaknesses and the ways in which the case will be defended. Finally, the experts help the lawyer prepare to cross examine the defense experts.
Perhaps the most important function of the expert witness is to help everyone in the case understand the issues. Attorneys need help in areas outside of the law. So do judges, jurors, insurance adjusters and anyone else involved in the case. For example, medical experts teach the medicine, the required standard of care, any deviation from the required standard of care (negligence), how such negligence caused the victim’s injury and how the injury impacts the victim and the victim’s loved ones.
Economic experts help everyone in the case understand the financial impact the injury has on the victim and his/her family. Nurses are often expert witnesses in Kentucky medical malpractice cases and Kentucky nursing home abuse and nursing home negligence cases. Nurses offer opinions about what was required to happen as opposed to what actually happened in the care of a patient. Kentucky product liability cases involve experts ranging from engineers to fire safety experts to technology experts.
Although utilizing expert witnesses is almost always expensive, significant cases justify the investment. In certain types of cases, such as medical malpractice cases in Kentucky, expert opinion testimony is mandatory for a case to move forward.
If you would like to discuss a medical malpractice case or a wrongful death case, a case involving an allegation of neglect or abuse in a Kentucky nursing home or a product liability case (or any other significant personal injury case), you are welcome and encouraged to contact Louisville personal injury lawyer Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC. Brett’s office number is (502) 242-8877.
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