Whenever your Denver car accident attorney is engaged in full-blow trial litigation, he is oftentimes going to use a trial expert, especially in automobile product defect cases or cases where accident reconstruction is at issue.
For instance, in the current Takata defective airbag litigation that’s going on, you can bet that the team of personal injury lawyers assigned to the case are using the best trial experts possible to testify how airbags are manufactured and how they are supposed to work and how the Takata airbags malfunctioned, ultimately causing loss of life and limb.
But what is a “trial expert” anyway? Under Colorado law, the definition of a trial expert is somewhat circular. Under the Colorado Rules of Evidence, a trial expert is basically a witness qualified as an “expert” by his knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education who can testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise about a scientific, technical, or other specialized field of knowledge and whose testimony will assist the jury with understanding the evidence or determining a fact in issue.
In order for that expert’s testimony to be admitted, a judge must first find that (a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the jury understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; (b) that the expert’s testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) that the expert’s testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (d) that the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
If the judge finds that your Denver personal injury lawyer’s proposed expert fails to meet any of these criteria, his testimony does not come in at trial and it could affect your possibility of winning your case.
Getting the right expert is not as easy as it sounds and if your Denver personal injury attorney uses the wrong expert, you could lose your case. Let’s take the example of a recent products liability case, Toomey v. MillerCoors.
One night William Toomey, a bar tender, was stocking Coors Light bottled beer in an ice bin. One of the bottles exploded, causing Mr. Toomey a severe injury to his finger/hand. Mr. Toomey’s personal injury lawyer sued MillerCoors on the basis that (1) the accident occurred because the Coors Light bottle was not thick enough to withstand fracture; and (2) that MillerCoors could have prevented Toomey’s injury by putting a warning on the packaging that some of the beer bottles could fracture during handling.
In order to prove his theory, Mr. Toomey’s personal injury lawyer hired an expert. The expert that Mr. Toomey’s lawyer hired was a guy who sort of used to work with glass, but his specific expertise was working with materials used to manufacture furnaces that cooked automotive, residential, and commercial panel glass. He had absolutely no experience manufacturing bottles nor had he consulted for any company that designed glass bottles or manufactured glass bottles. Moreover, the plaintiffs’ expert had not published any peer-reviewed articles on glass bottle design and manufacture, and he did not have any patents relating to glass bottle design. In other words, he may have been an expert in something, it just wasn’t bottle manufacturing or defects.
“Pride has lost more cases than lousy evidence, idiot witnesses, and hanging judges all put together. There’s absolutely no place in a courtroom for pride.” -Jerome Facher (Robert Duvall), A Civil Action.
Attacking both the plaintiffs’ expert’s qualifications and his methodologies, the defense moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ expert as a witness and, consequently, to dismiss the case in its entirety. The basic argument was that, without this expert, the plaintiffs couldn’t prove their case at trial; therefore, the case should be dismissed.
The court agreed and dismissed the case. The plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers not only lost their case, but the attorneys themselves lost a lot of money preparing for litigation. What’s worse is that, apparently, there was a settlement offer on the table and the plaintiffs rejected it – likely on the advice of their personal injury attorneys.
If you have been injured in a car accident and you are going to hire a Denver car accident attorney to litigate your case, you have to be sure that your Denver personal injury lawyer knows what he’s doing and that he has the right experts on your trial team. Otherwise, you could lose it all.
If you’ve been injured by a automotive product defect or you’ve been injured in an auto accident, contact Denver car accident attorney Jeffry Dougan today and set up your FREE case evaluation.