According to the latest US census data, there were 10.8 million traffic accidents in 2009, with similar numbers seen in other years. Those are a lot of auto insurance and personal injury claims, each one requiring expert auto appraisers to evaluate the vehicleular damage. If the insurance company has reason to reject any claims, the same experts could be asked to take the stand as auto appraisal expert witnesses.
Unfortunately, too many auto accidents are also the result of criminal negligence. Such cases usually involve serious charges, such as DUI, speeding, reckless driving, and even vehicular manslaughter. During the trail, lawyers will often rely on automobile appraisal expert witnesses to help prove their interpretation of the facts.
When is an auto appraisal expert needed?
Broadly speaking, an accident can be caused either by a mistake by one or more drivers, or due to some malfunction or failure in one of the vehicles. Since vehicles are often badly damaged and torn apart in the aftermath of a high-speed crash, how can the court decide what was responsible for the accident?
A qualified automobile professional can look for tell-tale signs of common problems, even in the worst damaged vehicles. Experience is also important, and a senior auto appraiser can use accumulated practical knowledge to analyze an accident scene.
Some cases require auto appraisal expert witnesses with a narrow focus of expertise. For instance, if a lawyer is convinced that her client's accident was caused due to a particular car model's faulty design, she will look for auto experts with long-term experience of that brand and model. Such expert witnesses can give first-person testimony based on real, practical experience.
Finding the right automobile expert
Really, it depends on the case. However, good lawyers follow some basic guidelines in selecting auto appraisal expert witnesses to support their side. This is because a court trial is an adversarial situation, where both sides will try to bring the better, more qualified expert.
When it comes to vehicular accident cases, both lawyers and juries seem to prefer practicing professionals from the automobile industry over non-professional and academic experts. Lawyers also look for auto experts who have the highest industry qualifications. It helps if the expert is also able to demonstrate an ongoing interest in updating and improving professional skills.
Lawyers are also interested in the candidates' personality and appearance. In court, the experts have to be able to communicate complicated concepts, present their own opinions and conclusions, and defend them against cross-examination (which can get quite forceful!)