A personal injury case that is not settled prior to trial often makes use of the testimony of expert witnesses on both sides in an attempt to explain, or clarify, highly technical aspects of the case to the jury. The requirements to become a personal injury expert witness will vary depending on the subject matter to which the witness plans to testify. As a general rule, however, a person who wishes to become a personal injury expert witness must have a combination of education and practical experience in the field, as well as be regarded as an expert by his or her peers.
An expert witness may be needed in a wide range of fields in a personal injury case. Personal injury litigation can vary from one jurisdiction to another; however, in most cases, the basic premise is that the plaintiff is claiming he or she suffered injuries as a result of the negligent or intentional acts of the defendant. Common examples of situations that often give rise to a personal injury lawsuit include car accidents, work injuries, airplane crashes, and dog bites. The requirements for an expert witness will depend significantly on the reason he or she is called to testify.
In order to become a personal injury expert witness in the field of accident reconstruction, for example, a witness would likely need to have an advanced degree in engineering. In addition, he or she would likely have extensive work experience in accident reconstruction. A witness who has published research in the field of accident reconstruction may also be in a position to become a personal injury expert witness.
Doctors are also frequently needed to testify in personal injury accident lawsuits. Often, the parties are in disagreement regarding the type or extent of the plaintiff's injuries. A doctor may also be needed to testify as to the long-term consequences of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff. Aside from the required degree, a doctor may need to have additional education or training in specific area of medicine to be considered an expert in the area in which he or she plans to testify.
Ultimately, the judge will decide who may become a personal injury expert witness in most jurisdictions. The court will usually examine the potential witness under oath and inquire as to his or her educational qualifications as well as work experience. Additional questions regarding his or her reputation among his or her peers may also be pertinent to the court's decision. If the court is satisfied that the witness is qualified as an expert, then he or she will be allowed to testify as an expert.