Expert Witness' Testimony Excluded in Accident Case

September 23, 2014

Earlier this month, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that a lower court's ruling to exclude an expert's testimony was appropriate under the circumstances.

Back in 2005, a woman was killed in Tennessee after an accident with a semi-truck. The woman was driving a Kia that was not equipped with a fuel shut-off switch.

Her mother brought a wrongful death suit against Kia Motors, claiming that they should have equipped the car with a fuel shut-off switch. She claimed that the Kia was inherently dangerous because of the airbag system and the lack of the fuel shut-off switch. Additionally, she claimed that Kia should have warned consumers about the unreasonable dangers.

The attorney for Ms. Hughes called an accident reconstructionist and a medical expert to testify that the car was unreasonably dangerous and discuss the exact nature of the victim's injuries.

However, the lower court determined that the expert's testimony was not reliable. They found that the expert was vague about his methodology and did not indicate any actual medical opinion regarding the impact of the accident on the victim.

The case was appealed to the Circuit Court, where it was affirmed.

Importance of Expert Witnesses and Their Reliability
When bringing a wrongful death suit, having an expert witness testify on your behalf is crucial in establishing your case. It is important that the expert meet certain requirements so that his or her testimony is accepted by the court.

An individual will be deemed an expert witness if he or she is able to give an opinion regarding a specific matter. He or she must manifest clear and reliable knowledge of and experience, education, or training in the specific area. The Federal Rules of Evidence explain that the expert's opinion should help the judge or jury make a determination, and it should be based on data or facts. Furthermore, the expert must follow reliable methods and principles, and those methods should have been applied in the instance he or she is testifying about.

If an expert does not meet these requirements, the court may rule that he or she is unreliable, and it is possible that his or her testimony will not be considered by the judge or jury in its final determination. That is exactly what happened in the above case. The court did not find that the expert witness was reliable and therefore asked the jury to exclude the testimony. This was likely a severe detriment to the plaintiff's case because expert witnesses' testimony can be the crux of an argument.

Are You Thinking About Bringing a Wrongful Death Suit?

In wrongful death suits, an expert witness is often necessary. Acquiring and screening expert witnesses can be a difficult and complicated task. Additionally, there is always a risk that a judge may exclude an improper witness. Let our attorneys deal with this tasking aspect of your claim by contacting us today for a free initial consultation. If you or a loved one is thinking about bringing a wrongful death suit against an individual or entity, please contact one of our experienced and dedicated attorneys at 502-583-2300 to assist you in bringing your claim. Wrongful death cases include a significant amount of preparation and strategy, and our attorneys are experienced in dealing with these types of matters.

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