When you are injured as the result of someone’s negligence and decide to pursue a lawsuit, there are many people that get involved. Some of those people are what we call experts. An expert is simply someone who has specialized skill, training or experience in a particular field. They use their expertise to analyze facts and data to form an opinion about a certain issue in your case.
Some experts are used behind the scenes to investigate and analyze things for you and your attorney while others are used at trial to present opinions that support the theory of your case. Every injury case is different and will require a unique set of experts depending on how the injury occurred, who caused the injury, etc. We have put together a short list of some of the most commonly used experts in injury cases to get you familiar with the process.
Accident Reconstruction Experts
Accident reconstruction experts are extremely useful in injury cases where the cause of the accident is unknown or disputed. They become even more useful when someone was killed in the accident because that person isn’t here to tell us what happened. Reconstructionists typically have a background in physics or engineering and accident investigation which helps in recreating the scene of the accident.
Accident reconstructionists rely on accident reports prepared by police, statements from witnesses, photographs and careful examination of physical damage to the vehicle when they cannot see the scene for themselves. They can determine speed and location of people and other moving objects based on the conditions of the ground, weather, various types of tire marks, vehicle and surrounding property damage, what injuries the plaintiff suffered and many other factors.
Economists are social scientists. They study the factors that contribute to and determine the use, production and consumption of resources. In the context of a lawsuit, economists are helpful for establishing the financial impact of what you have suffered. They help to put a number on things such as lost wages, future loss of earning capacity and past and future medical expenses, all of which aid in presenting your case to an insurance claims adjuster or jury. Economists create reports using statistics and economics to account for changes in inflation, market fluctuations and other factors when determining the value of your economic losses.
Engineers can be of use in many different types of injury cases because there are many specializations within the broad field of engineering. Engineers apply knowledge of science and math skills to design things like buildings, roads, machines and systems. Their expertise lies in the nature of their specialty.
For example, civil engineers are often used in cases that involve a defective road or design of a sidewalk ramp or a stairwell which caused an injury. When cases involve products liability, engineers can help to identify the source of the problem; whether the issue was a problem of how it was designed, mistake in producing an item during the manufacturing process, or a failure to include a sufficient warning label.
Human Factors Experts
Human factors experts are committed to studying the psychology of how humans interact with and use everything around them and how it relates to others. They form opinions on natural human use of machines, products, equipment, and responses to their environment. This can include cognitive, physical and organizational ergonomics (how things will be used and perceived by people).
Human factors experts can make determinations such as the speed of a person walking, ability to see a certain distance under certain conditions (ex. how far ahead someone can see while driving in the rain at night) and whether something was designed to be compatible with foreseeable human use.
Life Care Planners
Life care planners create detailed plans to identify the long term needs of people with disabilities allowing them to live as independently as possible given their limitations. These people help to establish your medical and social needs, both immediate and long term.
In an injury case, life care planners are excellent at detailing the many ways your long term life will be different than it would have been had you never been injured and how you should be compensated to make up for those differences.
They consider the long term implications of your injury such as needing to make your home handicap accessible, purchasing medical devices like wheelchairs and walking sticks, requiring an additional surgery after a number of years or needing permanent in home health care. These are all additional expenses that will be incurred months or even years down the road.
Treating Physicians and Medical Providers
Treating physicians and medical providers are medical professionals who take part in the diagnosis and treatment of your injuries. They are technically not experts because they are not retained by you and your attorney to analyze facts and date to form an opinion. They are involved in the case by the nature of their relationship to you, but they will be treated as experts if they testify in your lawsuit.
Treating medical providers may be utilized to prove the nature and extent of your injuries. They are typically used to present the damages portion of your case, where you demonstrate how your life has been affected by your injuries.
Vocational Rehabilitation Experts
Vocational rehabilitation experts are used to show a jury or insurance adjuster the impact an injury will have on your ability to earn wages, continue to be able to work and whether your work life has been shortened due to anticipated long term consequences of the injury. Vocational rehabilitation experts, sometimes called voc rehab experts, can give expert opinions on future loss of earnings based on your ability to work and your life expectancy.