My Lawyer Filed My Case, Now What? Part IV (Expert Depositions)
Lindsay RakersFebruary 17, 2013 10:57 AM
We previously discussed fact witness depositions. Now we will discuss expert witness depositions.
Expert witnesses are used to explain to the jury a specific issue that a typical person wouldn't know knowledge of. For example, if you were in a car crash and you need to prove liability, your attorney may hire expert witnesses. One such witness might be an accident reconstructionist who can recreate the scene with measurements and analysis. The expert witness may be able to show the jury that given the skid marks on the roadway (or lack thereof), the defendant didn't even hit his brakes before striking you, or that he was speeding, or even that you had the right-of-way. In a medical malpractice case, several medical doctors will be hired to explain the various medical issues to the jury. For example, if you or a loved one went to an emergency room with a severe chest pain and the doctors failed to evaluate you for a heart attack, a medical expert may testify that doctors are required to evaluate such conditions in ERs, how they perform the evaluation and what effect the lack of evaluation can have.
Sometimes, your own medical treaters will serve as expert witnesses to explain to the jury what injuries you suffered and what your prognosis is. Sometimes though, your attorney will have to hire expert witnesses in a certain field. Expert witnesses can be expensive. They charge for their time to review documents and they charge for their time to testify. But their testimony can be absolutely crucial to a case. Picking the right expert for your personal injury case can be difficult. Due to the importance of the testimony, the defense will nitpick every little thing about this expert - has he testified before? For which side? What did he say - is that consistent with what he is saying now? What are his credentials? Has he worked with your attorney before and therefore, is simply a "hired gun" or is he well respected in the profession?
First, your attorney will disclose your expert witnesses to the defense so the defense attorney has the opportunity to take the depositions of these witnesses. Second, the defense will do the same thing and your attorney will then depose those expert witnesses. Just like with all facets of your case, you are allowed to be present and watch the expert witness depositions. I oftentimes recommend that my clients do attend these depositions as it can help the client understand the issues that we will face at trial. Your injury attorney will do her homework for your witnesses and the defendant's witnesses. Your attorney will spend considerable time meeting with your experts to be sure they know the file inside and out. Your attorney will also research everything possible about the defense witnesses - have they written any books or other publications? Do they normally only testify for defendants? Is there anything in their professional past that could help? These depositions can be long and tedious but they can also play a big role in moving the case towards settlement negotiations.
Next time we will discuss mediation.
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