What Is an Expert Witness?

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When you’re hurt in a personal injury accident, you might hear people talk about expert witnesses. An expert witness, or even multiple witnesses, may be critical to proving your injury claim. Knowing how to use experts to your advantage, and respond appropriately to the other side’s experts, is a critical part of winning your claim.

It’s important to know what experts are, what they do, and how you can use them to your advantage. Here’s what you need to know about expert witnesses from our Nevada personal injury attorneys.


    What Qualifies Someone as an Expert Witness?

    What qualifies someone as an expert witness is sufficient training, knowledge, or experience that can help the jury determine an issue of fact. The rules for whether someone qualifies as an expert vary slightly between federal laws and the laws of each state.


    That means that the exact standards for whether someone is qualified as an expert depends on the jurisdiction of the case. However, in general, whether someone qualifies as an expert witness comes down to whether they have special insights, based on their unique qualifications, that can help the jury decide an important issue in the case.

    What Qualifies Someone as an Expert Witness in Nevada?

    What qualifies someone as an expert witness in Nevada is compliance with Nevada Revised Statute 50.275 [1]. The law says that what qualifies someone as an expert witness in Nevada is appropriate scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge that ultimately helps a fact-finder determine a question of fact. If someone qualifies as an expert witness under Nevada law 50.275, they may only testify about matters within their specialized expertise.

    What Are the Duties of an Expert Witness?

    The duties of an expert witness are to review the necessary materials, conduct the necessary tests, form an opinion about an issue of fact, and testify to those issues at trial. An expert witness has a duty to study, review, or examine the case sufficiently to form an opinion about an issue in the case.

    With that information, they depend on their specialized knowledge or experience to form their opinion. Then, the duties of an expert witness include testifying in court about their opinion and the basis for their opinion.

    What Is the Difference Between a Fact and Expert Witness?

    The difference between a fact and expert witness is personalized knowledge of the events and circumstances of the case. A fact witness is someone who personally sees, hears, or otherwise experiences something that has to do with the case. The fact witness has first-hand knowledge, and they testify to what they observed.

    On the other hand, an expert witness reviews facts and applies their specialized expertise to form an opinion. The expert witness might conduct an evaluation or research, but ultimately, the difference between a fact and expert witness is the expert witness states an opinion based on specialized training or knowledge.

    Who Can Be an Expert Witness?

    Anyone can be an expert witness as long as they meet the specialized qualifications for the case and issues at hand. While formalized training can certainly be a part of what qualifies someone to be an expert, there’s no minimum amount of education that you need to be an expert witness.

    Ultimately, the judge decides when someone is qualified to be an expert witness based on their qualifications and the circumstances of the case. Who can be an expert witness depends on their credentials and how they can contribute to the jury’s examination of the case.

    Types of Expert Witnesses in a Personal Injury Accident Case

    There are several different kinds of experts that may be a part of a personal injury accident claim. Here are some types of experts that you might encounter in your case:

    • Medical expert
    • Accident reconstruction expert
    • Manufacturing expert
    • Accounting expert
    • Vocational expert
    • Forensic expert

    Expert Witness Testimony in Nevada

    Expert witness testimony in Nevada is somewhat different than the federal rule and the rules that apply in many states. Over time, the United States Supreme Court tightened the standards for admission of expert testimony. The federal courts implemented something called the Daubert standard [2]. The Daubert standard gives the judge significant discretion to refuse to admit evidence if the judge believes that it doesn’t have the proper scientific foundation.

    While many states followed suit, Nevada did not adopt the Daubert standard. Instead, in the Higgs v. Nevada [3], 2010 Nevada Supreme Court case, the court declined to follow Daubert. Instead, the court said that the testimony doesn’t have to have a precise methodology to be admissible. Rather, the expert must be qualified, and the testimony must be helpful to the finder of fact. The standards for expert witnesses in place in Nevada provide for a more permissible standard of admissibility than the federal standards. Many states have adopted Daubert, but Nevada has not, and Nevada Revised Statutes 50.275 continues to apply to determine the admissibility of expert witness testimony.

    Despite statutes and case law, some Nevada courts have continued to struggle to implement statewide standards concerning expert witnesses. In Rish v. Simao [4], a 2016 Nevada Supreme Court case, the state’s highest court reversed and remanded a lower court decision about expert witnesses. The lower court refused to allow a party to admit much evidence at all in a car accident case. The lower court said that they needed to provide an expert witness to lay a foundation for their legal theory.

    The Nevada Supreme Court said that the rule is that expert testimony must have a sufficient foundation to be admitted. The rule is not that you first need an expert to make any arguments or present evidence. In Rish, the court said that it’s up to the jury to determine causation. While there are rules for the admissibility of expert witnesses, there are no rules that expert witnesses are a prerequisite to presenting a case.

    Nevada Attorneys for Personal Injury

    Do you have questions about expert witnesses? At Adam S. Kutner & Associates, we can help you use expert witnesses to your advantage. Call us today for a free consultation.


    [1] NRS 50.275

    [2] Stempel, Jeffrey W., “Expert Witnesses: The Nevada Supreme Court Clarifies Adherence to NRS 50.275 and Judicial Discretion, Expressly Declining to Embrace the Federal Daubert Approach” (2010). Scholarly Works. Paper 794. Retrieved 15 October 2019 from http://scholars.law.unlv.edu/facpub/794

    [3] Wilde, Kathleen, “Summary of Higgs v. State, 126 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 1” (2010). Nevada Supreme Court Summaries. Paper 335. Retrieved 15 October from http://scholars.law.unlv.edu/nvscs/335

    [4] Caliguire, Heather, “Rish v. Simao, 132 Nev. Adv. Op. 17 (Mar. 17, 2016)” (2016). Nevada Supreme Court Summaries. 973. Retrieved 15 October 2019 from https://scholars.law.unlv.edu/nvscs/973

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