What Qualifies Someone as an Expert Witness?
Following an accident, you need money to pay bills and support your loved ones. Unfortunately, getting full and fair financial compensation from insurance companies can be difficult. Personal injury claims are complex. An expert witness may support your claim of liability or damages. This raises an important question: Who is qualified to serve as an expert witness? The short answer is that there is a complex body of law in place to assess the admissibility of expert witness testimony.
At Naqvi Injury Law, we are proud to be Clark County’s premier personal injury law firm. Our mission is to help injured victims and their families get justice and the maximum available financial compensation after a serious accident. We want everyone to have the tools and information that they need to protect their rights. In this article, our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers provide a comprehensive guide to expert witness testimony in personal injury claims in Nevada.
Witness Testimony is Key to Many Personal Injury Claims
In order to bring a successful personal injury claim, there are two overriding things that you must prove. First, you need to prove that the defendant(s) was actually liable (legally responsible) for your accident. Additionally, you need to prove the extent of your damages. The value of a personal injury settlement/verdict will depend on your damages. With both issues, strong evidence can make a significant difference. Witness testimony can be a compelling form of evidence. There are two broad categories of witnesses:
- Fact Witnesses: A fact witness is an individual who has first hand knowledge regarding the events in question. For example, if you were injured in a car accident in Las Vegas, a pedestrian who saw the crash occur may serve as a fact witness regarding liability. Likewise, a close family member who witnessed the pain and suffering you endured during your recovery may serve as a fact witness regarding damages.
- Expert Witnesses: In contrast, an expert witness is an individual who testifies not because they have first hand knowledge about the case, but because they have specialized knowledge or proficiency in a relevant field. For example, a truck safety expert may serve as an expert witness regarding a trucking company’s alleged failure to properly load a trailer. Likewise, a doctor may serve as an expert witness regarding the severity of a person’s back injury after a truck accident.
The Role of Expert Witnesses in a Personal Injury Claim in Nevada
The role of an expert witness in a personal injury case is to help the court understand a complicated matter. Ultimately, expert witnesses provide testimony that adds to the overall evidence being weighed by the court. While the expert witness never makes any final decision in a personal injury case, they can provide persuasive evidence. Most often, an expert witness in a personal injury claim is focused on testimony to a relatively narrow matter regarding liability (how and why the accident occurred) or damages (how the accident impacted the victim). Some examples of professionals who may serve as an expert witness in a personal injury case in Nevada include:
- Accident recreation analysts;
- Highway safety experts;
- Product safety experts;
- Insurance adjusters;
- A financial professional;
- A forensic accountant;
- Medical specialists;
- A vocational rehabilitation expert; and
- A mental health counselor.
Ultimately, any person who has specialized knowledge/experience of a relevant matter could potentially be qualified to serve as an expert witness in personal injury litigation. That being said, Nevada courts are not going to allow an expert witness into the courtroom simply because one of the parties wants them to testify. There are strict procedural regulations in place regarding the admissibility of expert witnesses in civil and criminal cases in Nevada.
Nevada Law on Expert Witness Testimony: A Daubert Plus State
Juries often find expert witness testimony particularly compelling. This is not especially surprising. After all, the term “expert” is loaded. When a person is introduced as an expert in a particular field of study, it adds a lot of weight to their testimony. Their view will be taken far more seriously. For this reason, Nevada (and other states) have strict standards on who can testify as an expert witness. You cannot simply call on any expert in your case. There are specific criteria that must be satisfied.
Nevada is often referred to as a “ Daubert Plus” state for expert witness testimony. It follows the federal “Daubert Standard” set forth in the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., with a small local twist. The Daubert Standard holds that a judge is a “gatekeeper” regarding expert witnesses and that expert testimony should only be admitted as evidence if based on scientifically valid reasoning. The following factors should be considered:
- Whether the scientific technique supported by the expert can be and has been tested;
- Whether there are academic, peer-reviewed publications in their field;
- Whether the error rate of their practice has been assessed;
- Whether there are standards for controlling the expert’s field; and
- Whether the technique used by the expert is widely accepted.
As noted, Nevada is known as a Daubert plus state because it has adopted the federal Daubert Standard while also retaining its one state-level statute. Under Nevada law (Nevada Revised Statute § 50.275), expert testimony is only admissible if “scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence” and the specific expert in question has “special knowledge, skill, experience, training or education” that is relevant.
The Bottom Line: Nevada courts will only allow a person to testify as an expert witness in a personal injury case if two key criteria can be satisfied: 1) The court must actually need the assistance of an expert to help understand the evidence/facts, 2) The expert must possess some form of widely accepted knowledge, skill, or training that makes them qualified to weigh in on the matter.
Naqvi Law Connects Clients With the Right Expert Witnesses in Nevada
Naqvi Injury Law is a Las Vegas-based personal injury law firm devoted to providing superior, fully personalized legal representation to injured victims and their families. We go above and beyond to ensure that your clients are in the best possible position to maximize their financial recovery after a serious accident. From start to finish, our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers are focused on building a comprehensive case to establish liability and prove damages. Our firm knows how to use experts.
We have close connections with reputable expert witness witnesses throughout the region— from motor vehicle accident recreation experts to skilled medical professionals. No matter the specific circumstances of your case, we are here to connect you to the right expert witness for your case. If you have any questions about whether or not an expert witness testimony is admissible in your case, our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers are available to provide guidance and support.
Call Our Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorneys for Immediate Help With Your Case
At Naqvi Injury Law, our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers fight aggressively to protect the rights of injured victims and their families. With connections to the top expert witnesses, we know how to get results in complex injury & accident claims. Contact our law firm to arrange a no cost, no obligation review of your case. With the main office in Las Vegas, we serve communities around the entire region, including North Las Vegas, Henderson, Summerlin, Enterprise, and Boulder City.