When someone is injured in a car accident, the law allows them to bring suit against the responsible party and recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other forms of damages. In order to do so, the plaintiff must first prove that the accident was the defendant’s fault, and then the plaintiff must present detailed evidence proving the resulting damages. Doing this on your own is usually impracticable, so Washington, D.C. plaintiffs will usually attempt to bring in expert witnesses to testify regarding the accident.
Expert witnesses differ significantly from eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses are those who actually saw an accident occur. In contrast, expert witnesses did not see the accident, but they have a certain expertise that can help a judge or jury understand how the accident happened, how severe the injuries are, the issues that the injuries might cause in the future, and other relevant information. Washington, D.C. plaintiffs may want to bring in a variety of expert witnesses to assist with their claims, including medical experts to testify about the injuries suffered, accident reconstruction specialists who can explain who was at fault for the accident, and accountants or economic specialists to help calculate the damages that the plaintiffs suffered. Since car accidents and the resulting injuries can be very complicated, expert witnesses provide a lot of value to a court in deciding a personal injury claim.
Different states follow different rules for when an expert’s testimony will be admissible and considered in court. Until 2016, Washington, D.C. courts generally allowed expert evidence to be considered when the methods used by the expert were generally accepted by the scientific community. This standard was relatively relaxed, and plaintiffs were less likely to have their expert witness’ testimony blocked. However, in 2016, the D.C. Court of Appeals changed the standard to a stricter one, commonly called the Daubert standard because it first appeared in a case by the same name. The Daubert standard asks judges to thoroughly consider the expert witness’ testimony and make sure that the opinion is based on scientifically valid methodology, considering test results, error rates, peer reviews, relevant standards, and acceptance in the scientific community. Judges are more likely to rule testimony inadmissible under this standard. As a result, plaintiffs may have to work harder to ensure that their expert witness’ testimony is accepted.