You live in the Paramus area, have an accident, and hire a Paramus personal injury lawyer. In order to win your case, the Paramus personal injury lawyer must hire an expert witness. In some cases, the Paramus personal injury attorney might have to hire more than one expert. For example, a doctor to explain your injuries to the jury, and an accident reconstruction expert to explain why the accident wasn’t your fault.
By law, only an expert can testify respecting topics that a typical juror would not be familiar with.
At a personal injury trial, the judge instructs the jury as to what the law is. These instructions are called jury charges. The applicable law will affect the strength of your case.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey recently revised some of the jury charges applicable to cases that personal injury lawyers handle. This post is the second of several that I intend to write on these changes.
My previous post in this series discussed the problem of what happens when a fact witness fails to show up to testify. (A “fact witness” is simply a witness who has some relevant knowledge about the case, and is not an expert on anything. For example, someone who saw the accident take place.)
If an expert witness fails to attend trial, the law states that the judge should generally not tell the jury to hold that against the party who wanted to call the expert to testify. However, without an expert’s testimony, a victim often has no legal basis to win the trial. A victim without an expert thus risks the judge tossing the case out of court.
Can a personal injury lawyer do anything to minimize the risk of a no-show expert witness? Indeed, an experienced personal injury attorney CAN do something.
VIDEOTAPING TESTIMONY IN ADVANCE
The lawyer can schedule the expert for videotaped testimony in advance of trial. The testimony can even take place at the expert’s office. The defense lawyer will also attend, and will be able to cross-examine the expert witness.
When the trial comes, the personal injury lawyer can show the jury the videotape, in case the witness is unavailable. The judge will give the recently revised charge to the jurors, instructing them that they are to treat the video testimony the same as if it were live.
Accordingly, you might ask why personal injury lawyers don’t always videotape their experts’ testimony before trial. The reason is simple. There are significant expenses involved. Besides having to pay the expert for his time, the attorney must also pay a videographer and a stenographer. These expenses can easily amount to several thousand dollars. Most of that money will be deducted from any injury award that the lawyer’s client receives.
In sum, personal injury attorneys must weigh the likelihood of a no-show expert against the expense of a videotaped deposition. The prudent way to proceed depends on the specific facts of the individual case.