We’re all pretty familiar with the roles of lawyers and judges in the court room, but expert witnesses play an important role in civil trials such as personal injury or accident cases.
In today’s episode Chuck explains expert witnesses, how they are paid, and the role they play in a trial.
Hello again friends.
What I want to talk to you about today is expert witnesses. In a civil case, not a criminal case, and in a criminal case it kind of applies too, but it is a little bit different. I am going to explain the use of expert witnesses.
This is a cost borne by your attorney initially, to hire somebody to help explain to the trier of facts (the Jury) why this accident occurred. Or how you were hurt in the accident, in terms of the dynamics of the accident itself. Like when t-boning another car, how you moved around inside the car to show that your movement could have caused the injuries that you got. According to rule 702 of the Arizona Rules of Evidence as well as the Federal rules, you go out and find an expert, somebody highly qualified in the field of accident reconstruction or bio-mechanics for example, as to how the accident occurred, with the skid marks, the alleged speed, the vehicles involved. Your accident re-constructionist may end up putting a speed on the other person at 100 miles per hour lets say instead of the 50 that the police officer did. These are skills. These are people with educations, typically masters degrees or PhDs that you hire, and they’re expensive. That is why litigating a case is always expensive, but you need these people to be able to bring forth your cause or your claim, in order to prove your side.
Naturally, the defense brings in their own expert to completely rebut your expert and say essentially “He’s crazy, he’s wrong.” It becomes a war of experts, who is going to be believed? There are some great experts out there that just don’t have a lot of jury appeal, and there are some bad experts that really don’t know a lot but they are really appealing to the jury. Which is a crime. In any event it becomes who are they going to believe, your expert or their expert? Maybe both. Maybe they’ll split the baby right down the middle as it is said.
My point is, litigating a case is expensive. As you know, in an accident type case, I do it on a contingent basis, meaning unless I collect it doesn’t cost you anything. But I’m advancing money out of my own pocket for these expert witnesses and they can get pricey. I’ve seen experts as high as – I had an asphalt expert on a situation involving an accident and that asphalt expert, because it was a situation where the street had been asphalted with a hot patch and was never taken care of afterwards. The hot patch depressed and the motorcycle hit it, and that expert ran me about $20,000. So you know, that is the kind of expenses that are involved in an accident, once you get into a trial situation.
That just helps to explain the costs involved. Naturally, you don;t front that money. Myself and my law-firm do. If we lose – god forbid we lose – I’m out that money and you owe nothing. In terms of the fees, they would be contingent on us winning and collecting. A lot is involved in going to trial, and building your case. Hopefully you end up getting a decent offer before the trial so you aren’t rolling the dice and then waiting even longer for your money. That’s what it comes down to.
Thank you, I hope that’s understood.