There are a lot of facets to an accident that involves a semi-truck. In this article, we want to focus in on one of those facets — the importance of expert witnesses. Expert witnesses will help you establish credible evidence, which is vital to the end result of any truck accident case.
First and foremost, there are three components that we at Dwyer Williams Cherkoss Accident Injury Attorneys will analyze at the inception of a case. These components are: 1) Liability. Is the trucker at fault for the accident? 2.) Causation. Did the collision involving the semi-truck cause any injuries to my client? 3.) Damages. What exactly are those injuries? What are the economic and non-economic damages, and what are they worth?
Let’s start with liability
When we talk about liability, we need to figure out what experts are needed to prove liability. More often than not, you will need liability experts in a truck accident case. For example, trucks have a fair amount of data recorders that are loaded into their systems. Steering, acceleration, GPS, braking, and vectoring are some of the data inputs that are stored and recorded within the truck. In order to properly capture and read this data, you will need to hire someone who specializes in the interpretation of this data. In most cases, it requires the use of experts with the licensed software that matches up with the software that is installed in the truck. From there, all of the raw data is compiled and displayed in a way that helps paint a picture of the accident that took place.
Truck data leads to accident reconstruction
Once you have this data, you need to use it to create accident reconstruction. The truck data is combined with other facts of the case, such as witness statements and the police report. The accident reconstruction will show exactly what happened during this event. In order to create an accurate accident reconstruction, you will need trained engineers to perform this task. These engineers are vital expert witnesses that provide a factual account of the truck accident. For example, the engineers can figure out the exact location of the truck, its speed, the speed of the other car, and other relevant factors. These factors all combined will recreate the accident to show exactly what happened.
Understanding the trucking laws
There are general liability rules that regulate the trucking industry as a matter of federal law. Our firm will check to make sure that the truck driver and/or the trucking company involved in the accident was following all of the trucking rules. In many cases, we will bring in a truck driver as an expert witness to further discuss the rules. While we have many legal resources to help us refer to the many trucking rules, a first-hand telling of the rules from an actual truck driver will ensure that nothing gets missed when it comes to the details of these rules.
Now that we have covered liability, let’s move on to causation. In other words, what did the accident cause in terms of injuries? We analyze the damages to figure out what they are worth in terms of economic damages (out of pocket expenses, lost wages, medical wages, etc.) and non-economic damages (pain and suffering).
For an expert witness related to causation, we often use the injured person’s primary care provider. This is the best “before and after” expert witness that you can use in these cases. The doctor has seen this person leading up to the collision and understands this person’s physical and mental conditions. The doctor will then see this person after the collision, which helps provides a clear “before and after” comparison of the person’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Utilizing medical specialists
Along with the primary care provider of the injured person, we also bring in further medical specialists to get a better understanding of the injury or injuries that took place due to the accident. Specialists might include a neurologist, neurosurgeon, neuropsychologist, orthopedic surgeon, psychologist, or a dental expert. These are just some examples of the types of specialists that might be used; there are many others that may be called upon depending on the types of injuries.
Moving beyond the medical damages
Beyond the medical experts, there are other experts that are used for other types of damages. For example, we may use a vocational expert. That’s an expert that will analyze the person’s training, education, work experience and physical condition previous to the accident. The vocational expert will list out the types of jobs that this person was qualified to do prior to the accident. When a person involved in a collision obtains permanent injuries that affect their work ability, this is called an impaired earning capacity claim. The list of jobs that this person was qualified for before the injury has now shrunk down to a much smaller list of jobs. The vocational expert will focus on the difference between those two job lists as a display of damages due to the injuries from the collision.
Establishing monetary figures
The next expert witness that we want to discuss is an economist. The economist will put monetary figures to the testimony of the vocational expert. For example, if this person can only work 20% of the jobs that they were once able to work in a particular community that is in a particular job market, then it will equate to a specific amount of money per year of impairment of this person’s earning capacity. Again, it all comes back to establishing credible evidence that the jury can use in their final decision. These facts remove any type of speculation or guesswork related to the case.
Utilizing building contractors
It might sound odd to have a building contractor come in to testify on a personal injury case, but they can be very important expert witnesses — especially when it comes to truck accident cases. Often times, truck accidents cause severe, debilitating injuries that require the extensive — if not permanent — use of wheel chairs, crutches or walkers. A building contractor will determine the scope of work that is needed to adjust this person’s home. The building contractor will provide a bid that is needed to conduct this work to modify that person’s home. Again, this defines a set number that is now credible evidence to the jury.
The importance of a care planner
Finally, if it’s a permanent long-standing injury, our firm will get a life care planner involved. This person coordinates with all of the doctors and medical specialists that are involved in the treatment of the injuries to get an understanding of what type of ongoing treatment will be required in the future. The life care planner will put monetary numbers to these treatment plans. For example, if the person needs ten years of physical therapy, twenty years of periodic visits to a psychologist, and future surgeries related to the injuries that were sustained, the life care planner will assign specific monetary numbers to these treatment plans so that the jury can consider these damages when assessing the case.
Never underestimate the significance of expert witnesses
Every case is different, which will inevitably require different sets of expert witnesses. However, we cannot emphasize enough just how important these expert witnesses can be to a truck accident case. The court will always tell the jury that they cannot base their final decision off of guesswork and speculation. A final decision needs to be based on credible evidence. In most cases, the only way to get this type of credible evidence is through expert witnesses.
The value of utilizing an experienced personal injury lawyer
Our firm sees a lot of truck accident cases; this high volume amount of cases has provided our team of personal injury attorneys with a vast amount of experience in these often-complex cases. Along with the many facets of a truck accident case, we know the exact types of expert witnesses that are needed for your case!
If you or anyone you know was involved in a truck accident case here in the state of Oregon, contact us today at Dwyer Williams Cherkoss Accident Injury Attorneys for a free case evaluation. You can also reach us directly at: 1-800-285-8678. Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys will work hard to ensure that you receive the justice that you deserve!