This is the next post in a series of articles discussing trucking accident cases in Fort Worth, Texas. The previous article provided information about the general process that follows a serious accident involving a commercial vehicle. We decided to write that article as identifying potential defendants and calculating the victim’s damages are important steps in the process. Expert witnesses often provide opinions about the liability of the potential responsible parties, industry safety standards and damage calculations. This article will focus more in depth on the important role of expert witnesses in trucking accident cases. If you have been seriously injured in an accident, contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights.
Prior to giving testimony that will be admitted into court, a person must be considered an “expert” in their given field. Texas courts follow specific rules of evidence that require the expert to demonstrate that they have specialized training, knowledge, or skills in the purported area of expertise. If so, the qualified expert can offer conclusions on the subject matter. Following a serious trucking accident, the plaintiff will retain experts to demonstrate the relative liability for each of the defendants and to help determine the calculation of damages. The defendants will likely also retain their own experts to challenge the plaintiff’s experts with respect to liability and to reduce their respective financial responsibilities.
Consider the following example. A serious accident is caused by the driver of a semi-truck, who drives for a national grocery store chain. Even though the truck bears the grocery store’s name, the store leases the fleet of trucks from local trucking companies. The same local companies hire, train and assign the drivers to their various routes. The plaintiff’s attorney may engage several experts to assess the potential liability of the driver, the grocery store, the local leasing company and employer. An accident reconstructionist may be called upon to review the driver’s actions during the accident. An expert in trucking industry driver safety standards may be required to review the driver’s route logs, personnel records, hours worked, and training history. The expert may determine that the driver was assigned shifts longer than the standard amount or that the company was negligent in hiring an unqualified driver. The expert may also find that the grocery chain ignored poor performance ratings for the local leasing company.
In the same example, if the victim suffered a spinal cord and brain injury, additional experts will be necessary to ascertain potential damages. Physicians and other medical professionals may provide the long-term prognosis. Vocational experts may opine as to the likelihood for a return to gainful employment. An economist may calculate the earnings the victim may have earned over the course of his career had the accident not occurred. Each of these elements will be considered in the damage calculation.
For the reasons stated above, we cannot stress the importance of retaining a law firm with the resources to hire the expert witnesses required to appropriately evaluate liability and damages. We also suggest that a firm should employ multiple attorneys, an on-staff investigator, and employ attorneys are board certified in personal injury law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. These recommendations apply regardless of whether the incident took place in Fort Worth, Dallas, or another Texas area.