What are expert witnesses, and how can they help support your workers’ compensation claim?
Sometimes workplace injury cases involve complex topics the average juror might not readily understand. To help establish a client’s case, a workers’ compensation attorney may call on expert witnesses to provide testimony.
There are specific rules that govern who may qualify as an expert witness. In addition, Arizona courts regulate the scope of the testimony permitted. There are also several different types of expert witnesses.
If you need assistance in gathering the best expert witnesses for your case, reach out to our team at the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski today.
Types of expert witnesses
Expert testimony can be valuable in virtually any case that involves a significant amount of specialized information that may directly impact a jury’s ability to understand the facts of the case. The following professionals may be called to testify in a workers’ compensation claim as expert witnesses:
- Medical workers. Medical experts sometimes play a key role in workers’ compensation claims. Plaintiff’s attorneys often bring in a neutral (third-party) physician to explain the nature and severity of a worker’s injuries.
- Reconstruction specialist. If the employer argues the worker’s injuries may have been caused by something other than the workplace accident, a reconstruction expert may be brought in to reenact the accident and prove how it likely caused the injury.
- Forensic scientists. For example, an attorney may call a chemist to establish causation in an occupational illness case in which an injured worker becomes ill after working with a toxic chemical.
- Engineers. Engineers are able to clarify facts about product and environmental safety in the workplace. This expert testimony can be particularly beneficial in workers’ comp cases that involve injuries caused by defective or otherwise hazardous equipment.
- Financial professionals. Economic experts can help calculate the amount a worker should receive for a total or partial disability permanent disability claim.
- Securities experts
In a workers’ comp case, a vocational expert may also testify as an expert witness to offer an opinion on when an employer should expect the worker to return to work.
Who can become an expert witness?
According to the Federal Rules of Evidence (Rules 702 and 703), someone may qualify as an expert if they have “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” in a specialized field. Each state’s rules generally mirror the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Federal and state rules are just the starting point for workers’ comp attorneys in determining whether it may be helpful to call an expert witness. Experts whose only job is to testify in court cases may not present as credible and may have a negative impact on a worker’s case.
Injured workers should consult with an experienced attorney who can make highly-informed decisions when deciding whether to incorporate expert witness testimony and choosing the best expert to testify.
Expert witness testimony in workers’ compensation cases
The Federal Rules of Evidence require an expert’s testimony to be based on facts or the type of data upon which other experts in the same field would reasonably rely. Unlike non-expert witnesses who can only give testimony of what they have seen or heard, expert witnesses may offer their professional or specialized opinions.
Questions sometimes arise regarding whether scientific evidence is admissible in court. If a particular scientific issue is not a disputed fact in a case, the judge may take judicial notice and accept the testimony as fact. If a scientific issue is in dispute, the judge will usually evaluate the reliability of the testing methods prior to admitting the evidence.
The judge may ask whether the information has been subjected to peer review, whether the information can be tested and whether the testing and review procedures have been published. Courts also evaluate the rate of error in the testing. While tests used by the court may vary from state to state, the courts generally require the information to be accepted by the scientific community.
Workers’ compensation lawyers in Arizona
If you or someone you know is injured as a result of a workplace accident or illness, you should first notify your employer. Your next call should be to an experienced Arizona workers’ compensation attorney.