Get Technical in Your Next Personal Injury Case


Feeling out of your element by the technical aspects of your personal injury case? Get a technical experts on your team! Here’s how technical experts can help in common personal injury cases, such as slip and fall, car accident, and product liability.

Technical experts can help you out before trial by helping develop the proper legal theory of your case, using scientific procedures to analyze and supply facts and information, and suggesting new avenues of discovery. And they also can be invaluable at trial by reducing complex matters to terms that jurors can understand, expressing their conclusions on relevant matters of liability, and demonstrating the validity of their analyses and conclusions.

Here are some of the ways in which technical experts can advance or rebut theories of liability in particular personal injury cases:

  • Vehicle collision cases. In motor vehicle collision cases, engineers and physicists can often
  1. locate the point of impact, thereby helping to establish liability in lane intrusion and intersection cases;
  2. establish a driver’s speed or course of travel before a collision;
  3. establish a driver’s ability to see dangerous conditions, other vehicles, or pedestrians and to hear warning signals;
  4. determine a driver’s or a pedestrian’s reaction time to support or rebut a defensive claim; and
  5. testify on the likely effect of impact during an accident if seat belts had been worn.
  • Slip and fall cases. In slip and fall cases, experts can analyze the flooring, carpeting, pavement, stairway, or other surface on which someone fell and was injured, including its condition at the time of the accident. They typically study the shoes worn by the plaintiff and perform experiments to determine the coefficient of friction. They study lighting and maintenance conditions that might have created a hazard. They apply their knowledge of standards of planning, construction, and maintenance of the walking surface and of local ordinances and building standards governing construction and maintenance.
  • Product liability cases. Experts are used in most product liability cases to testify on defective design or construction of items such as vehicles, equipment, and containers. Only an expert can determine the effect of pressure, temperature, vibration, friction, and other stresses to which a particular item is exposed. Similarly, litigation over unsafe medications as a product usually require the testimony of technical experts. “Product” design liability also may extend to recreational areas and require the testimony of technical experts.
  • Explosion cases. In explosion cases (e.g., a natural gas line explosion in a residential area), experts can help determine and explain the physical forces that created the safety hazard and the standard of care that would have avoided it.

Next time you handle a personal injury case, considering getting a technical expert on board. For everything you need to know about identifying, selecting, and preparing technical experts, turn to CEB’s California Personal Injury Proof, chapter 5. And get all the filled-in sample forms you need to handle the most common types of personal injury cases in CEB’s new California Tort Forms From Expert Litigators.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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