In many New Mexico personal injury cases, there are complex legal issues that the average juror may not understand – which is why New Mexico plaintiffs and defendants must on occasion provide expert testimony. Generally, an expert witness is someone who is qualified through their education, training, experience, or practical skills.
Expert witnesses are often required in certain personal injury cases in New Mexico, and the judge or jury can rely heavily on the testimony that they present. There are many kinds of expert witnesses, including physicians, psychologists, forensic pathologists, scientists, and even handwriting experts. Unlike other witnesses, experts are allowed to provide their opinion based on their knowledge. In some cases, experts are called to testify during a trial, whereas other experts are used during pre-trial proceedings to familiarize a party with a certain field or issue. These experts may review things such as medical records, accident reports, witness testimony, and scientific or other technical data.
The decision of whether to allow an expert to testify rests with the judge, who acts as the “gatekeeper” of the evidence that a jury is permitted to consider. Thus, New Mexico personal injury attorneys usually make the initial determination regarding whether an expert witness is needed and what specialized training they should have. In most cases, an expert will be utilized when the case is complicated, or the facts require the judge or jury to reach a conclusion based on a complex subject matter. For example, in a car accident case, an accident reconstructionist would be an appropriate expert. Similarly, in a product liability case, an engineer may be useful. Experts can often make or break an accident victim’s case, and as a result, it is important that plaintiffs utilize an attorney’s expertise in determining which kind of expert to retain.
Take, for example, the situation that arose in a recent case in front of the Seventh Circuit federal court of appeals. In that case, the court affirmed the exclusion of two expert witnesses in a case involving claims of negligence, strict products liability, and breach of warranty. The case stemmed from a 2010 accident in which a defective computer battery allegedly caused a fire, resulting in the tragic death of a 23-year-old man.
According to the facts of the case, the college student purchased a computer that contained lithium-ion battery. A few months after the purchase, the city’s fire department responded to a call for a fire in the basement of the young man’s home. Sadly, the man was found dead as a result of smoke inhalation. A fire investigator agent concluded that the fire started in the basement where the young man was found, and he went on to exclude many potential causes of the accident. Another expert testified that, in his opinion, the fire was caused by a defect in the battery.
The family filed a personal injury lawsuit, alleging that the fire started due to a defective cell in the laptop’s battery. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion to exclude the plaintiff’s expert witness because they did not provide alternative causes of the fire. The family appealed all the way to the Seventh Circuit, where the appellate court ultimately agreed with the district court. They found that the experts did not comply with federal expert testimony requirements, and as a result, the lower court used the proper standard for dismissal.
Have You or a Loved One Been Injured in an Accident in New Mexico?
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in New Mexico, you should contact one of the experienced personal injury attorneys at the Fine Law Firm to discuss your rights and remedies. As you can see from the case above, expert testimony can significantly affect the outcome of a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit. Locating, interviewing, and retaining the proper expert can be a daunting process for the uninitiated. An attorney at the Fine Law Firm can assist you in finding and preparing the correct expert to help you seek the compensation you deserve. Contact one of the attorneys at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.
More Blog Posts:
State Supreme Court Reverses Summary Judgment, Permitting Plaintiff’s Untimely Affidavit, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 19, 2017.
Court Discusses Government Liability in Recent Personal Injury Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 4, 2018.