Expert witnesses can play an important role in civil litigation involving personal injury. Medical experts are often needed to provide underlying facts about the plaintiff’s injuries. An accountant’s testimony may be needed to establish a reliable figure of the plaintiff’s lost future earnings. An engineering expert may have useful insight into defects in a product’s design. Finding flaws in an expert witness’s testimony is a key component of litigation strategy for both sides in a dispute.
Nevada’s rules of evidence and expert testimony
Under NRS 50.275, an expert witness can provide testimony based on his or her scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge in situations where such testimony will help the jury or judge understand a fact that is important to the case. The witness must be “qualified as an expert by special knowledge, skill, experience, training or education.” For example, a veterinarian with experience treating horse injuries may be qualified to offer testimony about an injury to a valuable horse, but probably isn’t qualified to testify about a person’s head trauma.
An expert is allowed to provide an opinion about complex topics, such as whether the plaintiff’s cancer might have been caused by chemicals present in the defendant’s building. An expert’s opinion can be based on facts made available to the expert in preparation for trial; the expert doesn’t need to base an opinion solely on information that is in evidence. NRS 50.285. A court can require an expert to disclose data and methods used to reach an opinion, and these pieces of information can also be required if they become the subject of the counterparty’s cross-examination. NRS 50.305.
There are specific types of expert testimony, such as that provided by a doctor about a medical issue, that are subject to specific guidelines. Absent specific rules, judges in Nevada state courts have “wide discretion” to evaluate expert witness testimony to determine whether it poses an undue risk of confusing the jury. Higgs v. Nevada, 126 Nev. 1 (2010).
Casting doubt on an expert’s testimony
There are a number of common ways an expert’s testimony can be brought into question by an opposing attorney. Here are some examples:
- Examine the expert’s pretrial process for significant errors or omissions. If the expert’s opinion is based on faulty reasoning, the opinion itself may not be sufficiently reliable to be admitted into evidence.
- Raise questions about the expert’s qualifications to speak on the specific topic at issue. Even someone who holds advanced degrees in a specific field may not have the necessary experience to speak to the technical topics at issue in the case.
- Present a contrary expert opinion. Because the value of expert testimony can often be inconclusive, requiring the jury to weigh it relative to other pieces of evidence, the opposing side can benefit enormously by presenting another expert witness who holds a different opinion.
GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm
The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. We work with expert witnesses whenever doing so will help our clients’ reach a favorable outcome. For a free attorney consultation about your case, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.