The Role of Expert Witnesses in Wrongful Death Cases

If you lost a loved one in a car accident, through medical malpractice, or under any circumstances involving someone else’s probable fault, you and your attorney must prove liability to win a settlement. Wrongful death claims involve rigorous investigation, and expert witnesses can provide the specialized knowledge that may tilt the balance in your favor.

Let’s look into the importance of expert witnesses in wrongful death cases.

Proving Liability in Wrongful Death Cases

Like personal injury claims, wrongful death claims hinge on proving liability. To establish liability, you and your attorney will need to prove that:

  • The defendant (a driver, nursing home staff, premises owner, etc.) owed your family member a duty of care
  • The defendant breached said duty of care by acting or failing to act
  • The defendant’s action or inaction led to your loved one’s death

Establishing liability requires compelling evidence, like medical records, police reports, photos and video footage of the accident scene, and witness testimonies. Because wrongful death claims usually end in higher settlements than the average personal injury case, they may fall under closer scrutiny by insurance companies. Expert witnesses in wrongful death cases can provide the voice of authority that helps attorneys build a watertight claim.

How Expert Witnesses Can Support Your Claim

Expert witnesses are credible professionals with experience and knowledge in a field relevant to your claim. The right expert witness can:

  • Trace causation. An expert witness testimony can help show the causal link between the defendant’s conduct and the fatal outcome. For example, medical experts can testify that a negligent doctor violated the standard of care.
  • Contribute knowledge. As high-authority professional figures, expert witnesses can provide context and clarify complex topics that may otherwise confuse jury members.
  • Assess damages. Expert witnesses can help calculate the financial losses your family has already suffered and may suffer in the future. Such an opinion can play a crucial role in calculating an adequate settlement.
  • Reinforce your claim. As unbiased professionals, expert witnesses lend your claim credibility and strength. Expert witnesses can have a major impact on the outcome of your case.

Different Types of Expert Witnesses

Various professionals may serve as expert witnesses in wrongful death cases. Common types of expert witnesses include the following:

  • Medical professionals. A medical expert or pathologist can review the circumstances of the victim’s death and explain the likelihood of negligence or malpractice contributing to the fatal outcome.
  • Forensic engineers. A forensic engineer can evaluate a defective product for design or manufacturing flaws that could have caused a fatality or point out violations of safety standards in a workplace environment.
  • Accident reconstructionists. These professionals are highly useful for examining all the circumstances surrounding the fatal incident to reconstruct the events and pinpoint the cause of death.
  • Financial professionals. Financial counselors can help assess the full economic impact of the victim’s death and its influence on the family’s financial well-being, including factors like loss of income and potential earning capacity. 
  • Miscellaneous health professionals. Counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists can evaluate the emotional effect of the loss on grieving family members, while life care planners can estimate the costs of therapy and counseling the family may need.

Depending on the circumstances, your case may call for the professional testimony of one or more types of expert witnesses.

Do Expert Witnesses Charge Fees?

As medical, financial, or forensic professionals, expert witnesses in wrongful death cases contribute deep analysis and reliable testimonies. Proportionately to the value of their input, expert witness fees are often the most expensive part of a wrongful death claim.

Moreover, expert witnesses require upfront payments for ethical reasons. Unlike your lawyer, who represents your interests and can work on a contingency basis, expert witnesses are neutral professionals. Their fee cannot depend on your winning the case; otherwise, it would take away from the reliability of their authority.

However, despite the cost, working with expert witnesses makes sense in many wrongful death cases. When a lot of money is on the line, insurance companies will likely bring out the big guns and hire their own expert witnesses to contest fault or challenge the value of your claim. Expert witnesses can defend your claim against disputes and improve your chances of a successful resolution.   

Are Expert Witnesses Only Important in Cases That Go to Trial?

An expert witness can play a vital role in your claim whether your case goes to trial or, like over 90% of wrongful death claims, settles out of court.

Expert witnesses in wrongful death cases may testify in the courtroom or aid in settlement negotiations. Often, just knowing that you have powerful legal support and professional backing for your claim is enough to prompt an insurance company to issue a better settlement offer.

How To Choose Expert Witnesses

Prime expert witnesses offer highly relevant professional backgrounds, unimpeachable credibility, and meticulous analysis methods. Competent wrongful death attorneys usually have a list of reputable local expert witnesses with high authority in their professional fields. Your attorney will let you know whether an expert witness testimony can strengthen your case and, if so, which expert witnesses can contribute the most to your claim.

Your wrongful death lawyer may recommend hiring an expert witness based on:

  • The available evidence in your case
  • Crucial points that need reinforcement, like establishing a cause-and-effect link
  • Their experience with similar cases
  • Their knowledge of counter-arguments insurance companies may employ

Did You Lose a Loved One? Contact Khalil Law Group for End-to-End Legal Guidance and Support

In the aftermath of your personal tragedy, you need an empathetic legal team to defend your interests and fight to help you win an appropriate settlement. At Khalil Law Group, we know how to work with expert witnesses in wrongful death cases and use other efficient legal strategies to protect the rights of victims’ families in Orange County, CA.

Call (714) 617-7870 or leave your details online to schedule a free consultation with a wrongful death attorney in Newport Beach, CA.

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