Expert witnesses are often a critical resource in Florida personal injury lawsuits. These individuals are qualified in a particular field based on their educational and occupational experience. Some common expert witnesses include medical experts, accident reconstructionists, economists, rehabilitation experts, mental health experts, and engineers. Cases often hinge on the opinion and testimony of an expert witness. An unqualified, inept, or biased expert witness may result in disqualification or impeachment based on credibility.
Recently, a Florida appeals court issued an opinion in a defendant’s appeal of a trial court’s decision to limit their ability to cross-examine two of the plaintiff’s medical experts. The case arose when the plaintiff suffered injuries after the defendant rear-ended him at a stoplight. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant and his employer. During pretrial proceedings, the defendants stipulated to the driver’s liability and the employer’s vicarious liability. However, they asked the court to bifurcate the trial and damages phase of the trial. The trial court agreed to the bifurcation but refused to exclude evidence of the driver’s intoxication.
During the trial, the plaintiff presented several medical experts, including one that was personal friends with the plaintiff’s attorney. The defendant sought to cross-examine the expert witness on his relationship with the plaintiff’s attorney; however, the trial court limited the inquiry. The court only allowed the defendant to inquire as to the length of the friendship. Amongst other issues, the defendant argued that the limitation was inappropriate as it went to the expert’s potential bias.
The appellate court found that the trial court erred in limiting the defendant’s inquiry. Florida courts generally allow a party to attack an expert witness’s credibility by revealing a potential bias. Among other reasons, the court concluded that if a plaintiff’s attorney chooses to retain a personal friend as their expert, they should expect questions regarding potential biases.
When a judge accepts an expert witness, they rightfully expect that the witness provides unbiased and objective opinions and testimony. When the fact-finder discovers that an expert is biased, the expert’s testimony may be given less weight. Further, a court may disqualify an expert witness, even if their opinion remains admissible. Florida personal injury plaintiffs should ensure that they retain unbiased and qualified experts to testify on their behalf.
Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida Car Accident?
If you or someone you know has suffered injuries in a Florida car accident, contact the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, for assistance. The attorneys at our law firm have extensive experience handling various types of Florida personal injury lawsuits. We handle claims stemming from motor vehicle accidents, boating accidents, premises liability, defective products, elder abuse, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. We maintain appropriate working relationships with various experts that can provide critical testimony during personal injury lawsuits. Through our representation, our clients have recovered significant amounts of compensation for their damages and losses. Contact our office at 877-499-4878 to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced Florida injury attorney at our law firm.