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What is an Automotive Expert Witness?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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An automotive expert witness is a witness in a trial who testifies about an issue related to vehicles and transportation. Automotive expert witnesses and other expert witnesses are rarely eyewitnesses to an event. Instead, they represent authoritative voices on technical issues surrounding a trial, especially related to trial evidence.

An automotive expert witness may be called upon to provide testimony at trial on a wide range of issues. An event leading to a trial may involve the use of a vehicle. There may also be some liability involved that centers on the operation of a vehicle.

As credible authorities on cars and trucks, automotive expert witnesses are often part of a trial that involves an auto accident. Some auto expert witnesses are “accident reconstruction experts” who put together a likely scenario by utilizing specific knowledge of automotive physics and, or, vehicle construction. Some types of witnesses who are auto experts may also specialize in the legal details of an accident such as right of way or sight distance issues.

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Auto expert witnesses may also be part of a case which may not be a formal trial, but a litigation of an auto accident through the courts. When car accidents are handled through the court system, the parties may be individual households, small businesses, or any other parties involved in the accident. However, through new auto insurance systems in many states, it is now common for an auto insurance company to be a party in a car accident case. Auto expert witnesses help straighten out the details of a case to see who should offer compensation to whom.

In accident reconstruction, an automotive expert witness might offer evidence based on how a vehicle moves, or what conditions were observed after the vehicle came to a stop. The automotive expert witness might help interpret documentation and photos surrounding the event. They may also use skid marks on the road or other evidence.

In trials involving automotive expert witnesses, metallurgy, tire construction, rollover physics, and a lot of other technical issues might come into play. Many automotive expert witnesses are part of expert firms that can be hired to resolve legal issues by drawing on what they have learned about a certain aspect of vehicular transportation.

When they are providing specialized knowledge, an automotive expert witness may be working mainly from a “field perspective.” This means they are giving testimony on what is likely based on having seen a lot of accidents and detailed evidence. On the other hand, some of what automotive expert witnesses provide is based on scientific theory. For example, if an expert gives testimony on a collapsed vehicle, some of that may be based on specific tensile strength calculations, and some of it may be based on what is a common result after a specific kind of crash. Both of these disciplines are highly valuable for expert witnesses who will advise the court in an ongoing trial or suit.

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