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What's a Non-Expert's Opinion Worth in a Personal Injury Case?

Clearly, you don't have to be an expert to testify court. All you need to Understand this is a fundamental understanding of our court system. Witnesses of all sorts testified of various things. They are commonly broken into two groups: The first group is lay witness. The second group is expert witness.

So, as I said, there is no rule that requires that a witness being expert. A lay witness may, in fact, need to testify a certain degree of opinion from time to time. All the general rule is that witnesses testify as to maximize her patients, on occasion some small degree of intrinsic opinion is permissible of the lay, non-expert, witness to effectively answer questions. This is even the case, on occasion, when there's a lack of training or expertise on the topic of testimony. Whether a non-expert is competent to give his or her opinion largely depends on the witnesses ability to otherwise reproduce or describe the subject matter to the jury and must be of the nature of facts that people in general have the ability to comprehend and understand without expert testimony.

The most common examples of things which people may ordinarily testify to without being experts are the identity of persons and things, lightness, sound, distance, weight, age, speed, color, size and measurement of time or space. So long as the way witness this testified to something which the general public ordinarily would form an opinion, such testimony is likely admissible. Let's take an example.

A potential example of such testimony in an auto accident litigation would be the speed of a vehicle was traveling prior to being involved in a car accident. We will put aside the issue of whether icon as a personal injury lawyer, would rely upon a lay witness to testify as to the speed of the vehicle involved in a car accident. We were litigating a case of that major, who likely have an expert who has reconstructed the accident. That is not to say that I would not have laypeople testify as to their opinion of speed, so long as I knew there came was consistent with my expert.

The fact pattern will be as follows. A car came driving down a steep decline towards a busy intersection. About 100 yards prior to the intersection, the light for the driver of that vehicle turned yellow. At about 50 yards the light turned red. At about 25 yards, the driver of that vehicle slammed on his brakes and streaked into the middle of the intersection striking another car at a perpendicular angle. An individual operating a hot dog stand on one corner of the intersection testified that he had watched the vehicle approach from about 200 yards out. He testified that he had no customers being served at the time and he noticed a vehicle due to its high rate of speed. The plaintiff's lawyer then asked the witnesses opinion as to how fast the vehicle was traveling when it was approaching the intersection.

Defense counsel objects and the judge calls both attorneys up to the bench for sidebar. "What is your objection, counsel?" asks the judge.

Defense counsel says," Your Honor, plaintiff's counsel is asking a question of a lay witness which seeks and expert opinion as to speed and distance.

"Plaintiff's counsel, what do you say to that?" says the judge.

"Your Honor, it is widely held that non-experts may testify as to their opinions of distance and speed."

The judge then overrules defense counsel's objection and directs the witness to answer the question asked. Later in the trial, the plaintiff's expert accident reconstruction witness testifies to the exact speed and distance concluded in the expert's research and analysis. Such testimony is clearly more valuable, not just the plaintiff and his attorney, but to the jury in ascertaining the true facts of the case. But, lay witness testimony, particularly for issues like this, is not only valuable, but very relatable to jury members also feel they could ascertain such information.

Categories: Personal Injury, evidence

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