Being involved in an automobile accident is an overwhelming experience. Often, those involved suffer physical injuries, and it takes time and money to recover from them. Additionally, there is damage to the vehicle, which also costs money to fix. In the majority of automobile accidents, someone is at fault. Although the injured victim must bear these costs upfront, the possibility exists that he/she may be able to seek reimbursement from the person at fault. Retaining the services of an experienced personal injury attorney, and one especially versed in car accidents can be instrumental in receiving this reimbursement.
Part of this strategy is to determine whether expert witnesses should be used. Expert witnesses do provide a basis for establishing damages. Nevertheless, they are not appropriate in all situations, and the Illinois Supreme Court recently held that photographs of damage to automobiles which have been involved in an accident can be used at trial to combat a personal injury claim brought by an individual involved in the crash, without supplying expert analysis. In other words, a picture is worth a thousand words that an expert witness would provide in his/her opinion, and, as such, an expert witness is not necessary.
While negligence is the legal theory used to find liability in personal injury matters, Illinois follows a contributory negligence model, meaning if an injured plaintiff is partially at fault for his/her injuries, his/her recovery will be reduced by that amount. As an example, in a two-car accident, if the plaintiff is determined to be 30 percent at fault (meaning the other driver was 70 percent at fault), and the damage awarded by the jury was $100,000, the plaintiff will only be able to recover $70,000. Further, in Illinois, if it is determined that the plaintiff is greater than 50 percent at fault, then recovery of any money is prohibited.
Expert witnesses are used in this area to offer an opinion on the degree of fault a party has in the car accident. Obviously, the plaintiff’s expert witness will attempt to persuade the jury that the plaintiff was not at fault at all. By contrast, the defendant may proffer an expert witness to sway the jury that the plaintiff was at least 50 percent at fault. It then falls to the jury to ascertain which expert witness presented the most accurate opinion.
Additionally, expert witnesses may also be used to show the value of damages that are harder to quantify, such as lost wages and benefits, or future costs related to recovering from the injury.
As alluded to above, expert witnesses can be used to establish degrees of fault, as well as damages. Nevertheless, it is important to understand specifically what an expert witness can and cannot do. Most commonly, an expert witness will offer his/her opinion to the court through the use of evidence or a report (in actuality, his/her testimony is not a typical opinion, and must be based on the support provided). This opinion must be independent and truthful, regardless whether they support their client. By contrast, an expert witness will not provide an opinion beyond his/her expertise, nor will the expert witness debate the case (that is the job of the attorney). In summary, although the expert witness is compensated by a party, his/her job is to interpret the evidence in light of his/her expertise, independently and without prejudice of his/her client.
If you suffered an injury as part of an automobile accident, and are curious as to how the process works, including the use of expert witnesses, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The dedicated DuPage County personal injury attorneys at Mevorah Law Office, LLC have years of experience in personal injury matters, including those injuries relating to automobile accidents. If, after examining your circumstances, we deem that the injury was preventable and attributable to another person or entity, we will work to ensure that you get the maximum compensation possible. Contact us at 630-529-4761 for a free consultation.
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