11 Potential Expert Witnesses for Michigan Auto Accident Cases
Lawyers will have to rely upon expert testimony in most auto accident injury cases in Michigan to develop a prima facie cause of action and establish the proofs necessary to survive a defense motion for summary disposition.
Experts commonly encountered in automobile accident litigation throughout Michigan include:
The Plaintiff Lawyer’s Medical Treating Doctors
The plaintiff must rely upon treating physicians to establish medical injury and causation.
The Defense Lawyer’s Experts
Defendants generally seek “independent medical examinations.” Whether truly independent experts or not, these various medical practitioners to perform one time examinations and then write reports or testify in a personal injury lawsuit. They are used by defense lawyers to refute and rebut the plaintiff’s treating physicians and medical injuries.
A toxicologist may assist in cases where drug or alcohol use are alleged and may be contributing factors to an auto accident.
The meteorologist can be used to establish what the weather was like and to support or rebut claims about what role weather may have played in causing the motor vehicle accident. It is important to remember that the weather by itself can only rarely be found to be an excuse for causing a motor vehicle accident as drivers are charged with using ordinary care when driving in the weather conditions that confront them.
This is an expert who may be able to take evidence from an accident scene and form a hypothesis as to how the accident occurred. This includes estimating the speed of motor vehicles involved, and forming a theory as to causation.
Whether civil or traffic or biomechanical, engineers can examine the construction, condition, placement and working order of the various motor vehicles and roadway in which an accident occurs. Biomechanical engineers study the laws of physics when focusing on human tolerances that may or may not produce injury. A biomechanical engineer examines the relationship between vehicle dynamics, occupant kinematics, injury causation, and the forces involved in a collision. A personal injury lawyer considering hiring a biomechanical engineer in an auto accident case should be warned that there are now dozens of cases that have come down across the country barring defense lawyers from using bio-mechanical engineers to testify as to what the forces involved in a car accident collision would have been and whether or not consistent with causing injury to the plaintiff.
An economist can assist a personal injury attorney with preparing and assessing future lost earnings over the first three years of No-Fault lost wages, or if the injured person is a high wage earner, the difference over and above the statutory maximum that the injured person received from his No-Fault insurance company. The economist will consider such factors as a person’s age, life expectancy, the expected duration of work loss, and more complicated factors like the time value of money, projection of future interest rates and inflation and other factors.
Vocational Rehabilitation Expert
Depending upon the nature and extent of a disability, a vocational rehabilitation expert can assist a lawyer with determining the proper courses of treatment, whether and to what extent accommodation can be made in the workplace for an injured person and alternative paths to retraining an individual to re-enter the work force.
Remember that experts can play multiple roles, not just to testify. Experts can assist you the attorney in investigation of the case, providing testimony at deposition, case evaluation, educating attorneys and testing various alternatives to potential legal recovery. An expert is a person with special knowledge, skill, experience, training and/or education. It goes beyond the experience of ordinary members of the public. There can be dozens or even hundreds more experts that can be used in car accident cases in Michigan, ranging from human factors to lighting experts to metallurgy. The attorney should always keep an open mind in working with experts who may have special knowledge to allow the attorney to develop the best possible automobile accident case.
Motor Vehicle Accident Scene
It is always helpful for a personal injury lawyer helping someone involved in a serious car accident injury case to go out and see the scene of the collision. If possible, the lawyer should photograph the scene shortly after they are retained and before any changes are made. This can be helpful in preserving photographs to be used later or to be used when pursuing potential causes of action against other possible defendants in a serious injury or death automobile accident case. If the collision occurs on a State of Michigan highway, it is always helpful to contact the State and obtain the State’s mapping program of the area involved.
It is always helpful for any Michigan personal injury attorney to try talking to witnesses before memory fades. In a serious car accident case, this can become challenging, as there is often a race to attempt to contact and talk to witnesses. Representatives from an insurance company, investigators and lawyers for potential defendants will often want to talk to these people as well. Lawyers and investigators from many of the larger trucking companies, for example, now receive special training in contacting witnesses and in ways to minimize potentially damaging witness testimony and have teams available around the clock on call. An injury victim lawyer’s goal should always be to obtain statements or recordings of helpful testimony in the event the person later is not able to be found or changes his story as to how the accident happened. Remember, however, if you do not want your adversary to see a statement, it should not be preserved. The current law in Michigan does suggest that these statements would have to be turned over to your adversary and may not be protected by the work-product privilege. Lynd v Charter Twp. of Chocolay, 153 Mich App 188 (1986), and Peters v Gaggos , 72 Mich App 128 (1976).