Witnesses are an important part of a personal injury case. In general, witnesses are called to help clarify contested issues in a case. In this way, witnesses can build help build the strength of your case. In fact, one witness’ testimony could make or break an entire case. There are two major categories of witnesses, read on to find out who they are and why they can be so crucial to your case.
A lay witness is a person who provides testimony in case, but who is not considered an expert. Lay witnesses provide statements based on their perceptions and personal knowledge only, not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge. Lay witnesses don’t provide their opinions, just the facts of what they have perceived in relation to the case.
The most common lay witnesses in a personal injury case are:
- Witness To the Accident: this can include a wide range of people, including, people who saw the accident occur, people involved in the accident, the police, medics who responded to the scene, ER doctors, etc.
- Before/After Witnesses: This often includes friends, family, and colleagues. These witnesses had a personal relationship with the victim both before the accident occurred and after. These people can provide testimony on how the accident and subsequent injury affected the victim physically and mentally. This sort of witness is especially crucial when asking for damages to compensate for pain and suffering.
In contrast to a lay witness, an expert witness is qualified as an expert in a field by way of skill, experience, training, or education. Expert witnesses usually do not have any direct relation to the accident or victim, rather they are outside resources used to provide informed opinions on contested issues in the case. The Federal Rules of Evidence allow an expert witness if:
- the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
- the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
- the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
- the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
For example, if the defense is claiming that being rear-ended cannot result in a spinal injury, the plaintiff may call upon a doctor who is a spine specialist (even though the doctor never treated the victim) to provide their expert opinion on whether or not the rear-ending could have caused the injury.
Keep in Mind
If you are involved in an auto accident, gather witness information early and often. From eyewitnesses to the reporting police office, to your treating doctor; both lay and expert witnesses could be the crucial key to obtaining fair compensation in your personal injury case.