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expert witness

Types of Witnesses Involved in Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury cases are complex and can involve both expert and lay witnesses. These people will help to prove your case and corroborate your claims. Depending on the details of your case and the specifics of your claim, you may have a few or many witnesses, just laypeople or only experts, or both. Let's look at how the different types of witnesses help you prove a case. Lay Witnesses Negligence cases are proven by showing that someone who owed you a duty of care breached that duty and caused your injury, resulting in compensable damages. That means you as the plaintiff must establish what happened. One way you do that is by gathering evidence from anyone who was at the scene of the incident in question. Lay witnesses are people who have no particular expertise associated with the claim other than the fact they saw something relevant, whether at the scene of the incident or with respect to your injury and treatment. There are two types of lay witnesses that you might employ in a negligence case -- witnesses who saw what happened can testify about the accident and those who know you personally and observed you while injured can discuss that. The testimony of these two types of witnesses provides added support to the things you say. Expert Witnesses There are different types of expert witnesses, too. Depending on the type of case, you may need an expert to talk about engineering, or medicine, or the climate, or soil erosion or pretty much any other complex topic that is implicated in the case. Courts must certify a witness as an expert and who qualifies, as well as the procedure, is dictated by the rules of evidence. Most often, although not exclusively, the experts called upon in negligence cases are doctors, and they testify about the extent of injury, the appropriate treatment now and in the future, and more. Expert witnesses can be quite expensive, charging not only to compile reports that support your claim but also to come in to court and testify in person. But that doesn't mean you don't need them. Talk to a Lawyer If you were injured speak to a lawyer. Tell your story and let counsel worry about what witnesses to call and even how to pay them. Many personal injury attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your situation, and many also take cases on contingency which means you will only pay legal fees if you recover damages. Get help. Related Resources: Have an injury claim? Get your claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) What Is a Subpoena? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) In the Courtroom: Who Does What? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Do's and Don'ts -- Being a Witness (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) What Happens at Trial? (FindLaw's Learn About
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Joan Rivers and Alleged Medical Malpractice: 3 Things to Know

Comedian Joan Rivers' death was the result of medical malpractice, her daughter claims in a lawsuit. What can consumers learn from this pending case? As you may recall, Joan Rivers underwent a procedure to remove a growth from her vocal cords last summer. She suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest during surgery and was rushed to a hospital; Melissa Rivers later decided to remove her mother from life support. But according to Melissa's lawsuit, Joan Rivers' death can be blamed on doctors and the New York City clinic where her procedure was performed. Here are three legal facts about medical malpractice cases to keep in mind as this lawsuit proceeds: 1. The Lawsuit Does Not Specify the Amount of Damages. Lawsuits often seek a specific dollar amount in terms of damages, but Melissa Rivers' lawsuit does not. Under the laws of New York, where the suit was filed, lawsuits alleging personal injury or wrongful death are not allowed to state an amount for damages. This allows a jury to come up with an amount on its own, without being influenced by what the plaintiff feels he or she deserves. Other states have similar laws about specifying damages in these types of cases. 2. What Counts as Malpractice? Many medical errors can be considered malpractice, including wrong-site surgeries and retained foreign objects (i.e., sponges left inside a patient). But these cases all assert that a medical professional breached his or her duty to a patient by failing to act as a reasonable professional would. In Melissa Rivers' lawsuit, she names the Yorkville Endoscopy Center and five physicians, including her mother's personal doctor Gwen Korovin, as defendants, Reuters reports. The doctors failed to recognize Joan Rivers' declining vital signs, performed a procedure that Rivers had not consented to, and were slow in calling 911, the suit asserts. The suit also calls out one doctor for allegedly taking a "selfie" with Joan Rivers while she underwent the procedures. 3. The Case May Come Down to a 'Battle of the Experts.' If the case goes to trial, the question of malpractice may come down to a "battle of the experts." That's when both sides present dueling expert witnesses to testify about how a "reasonable" medical professional would have acted in a similar situation. As you can see, there are a lot of legal factors to consider in a medical malpractice lawsuit. To lean more, check out FindLaw's section on Medical Malpractice or contact an experienced attorney to review your case. Related Resources: Have an injury claim? Get your claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) 5 Signs You May Need a Medical Malpractice Attorney (FindLaw's Injured) Joan Rivers' Estate Plan: $150M to Daughter, Grandson, Dogs (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Joan Rivers' Death: 3 Legal Facts About Life Support (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Interview with Letitia Quinones

Letitia D. Quinones brings over 14 years of criminal law practice to her clients in Houston, throughout the state of Texas, and across the nation. Criminal defense is her passion and she fights hard and tirelessly to preserve the rights of the people. Letitia has made an exceptional name for herself as a criminal trial lawyer and defends cases ranging from misdemeanors to federal felonies. Letitia is a single parent of two wonderful girls, ages 8 and 17 and has worked very hard to achieve success and the respect of her peers. As a African-American female, it was not always easy to over-come the stereotypes that exist in a Caucasian-male dominated field, however Letitia’s motto is “With hard work, due diligence, and using God’s naturally given gifts for his good – YOU CANNOT FAIL!” I enjoyed speaking with Letitia and I hope you’ll find her perspective as interesting as I did. What inspired you to specialize in criminal defense? My inspiration to become a criminal defense lawyer was fueled from my life’s experiences. As a young girl living in the urban parts of San Antonio, I saw many injustices occur in my neighborhood. Some of these injustices affected my childhood as well as the lives of my friends in very detrimental ways. I was always interested in making sure that people were treated fairly and fixing injustices. When you started practicing what was the criminal defense field like for women? What about for minorities? What challenges did you face, if any, based on your gender or race? When I initially started practicing, and even today, women were not viewed as equals in the courtroom. I often was treated as “just another pretty face.” This only motivated me to work harder to prove that I was just as capable of handling high quality cases as the next male lawyer. Back then, before I proved myself, I often dealt with men saying inappropriate things that were sexually suggestive, which made me angry and uncomfortable. Adding to the agitation was the way I was treated for also being a woman of color. I was often asked to show my credentials in the courtroom, where my Caucasian counterparts never dealt with these types of issues. On a couple of occasions, I was asked if I was a defendant. Of course my response was, “how many defendants in here are wearing a suit, carrying a briefcase and walking throughout the well of the court – moron?” Did you have access to women role models? How did that impact your career? Unfortunately as a young lawyer I was not afforded access to woman role models, as 15 years ago they simply were few and far between. As I became a more seasoned and experienced attorney and women begin to rise through the ranks, more role models surfaced. Not having a role model during my early years as a lawyer truly affected the time it took for me to learn how to conduct myself as a female attorney. What I mean is that as a women, you must dress professionally, wear your hair conservatively, and conduct yourself in a manner where you are tough but not a bitch! Learning all these unwritten rules on my own was a challenge. Now, I do what I can to reach back and give young female attorneys sound advice on how to earn the respect of our peers. Are there any unique aspects about being a woman that either help or hinder you when you represent a client? Being a female attorney surely has its advantages and disadvantages. Specifically, in a male dominated field, one disadvantage is that as a woman you constantly have to prove you are tough enough to be in the game. Advantages are that sometimes being a woman can soften up that male prosecutor or judge. Surely, the emotional side of a woman can be beneficial when you are dealing with clients’ fears and insecurities during the process. A woman’s bedside manner is simply better than a man’s and it proves for better customer service.   You just need to know when to use what trait. The ability to use your womanhood at the proper time comes with experience and practice. Have you seen recent representations by women criminal defense attorneys that you thought were outstanding? If so what made these women stand out to you? There are not many women that practice in the federal criminal defense field. However, every now and then I have come across a formidable woman opponent. ...
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Ariz.’s SB 1062 Vetoed; States Debate Similar Bills

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062 on Wednesday, explaining that the bill -- which would have effectively allowed business owners to refuse service to gays on the basis of religious freedom -- "does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona." While insisting that she had worked hard to represent the voters of Arizona, Gov. Brewer expressed concern that the controversial bill -- which had been cast as "anti-gay" -- was simply too broad, reports the Los Angeles Times. What other reasons did Gov. Brewer offer for vetoing SB 1062? And what does her veto mean for states considering similar "religious freedom" bills? Not a Real Problem in Arizona According to the Times, proponents of SB 1062 feel the bill has been misinterpreted. But the deeper problem seems to lie with the "problem" the bill intended to address. Taken at its best, the bill sought to protect Arizona business owners who wished to refuse service to certain customers. If that refusal was based on the business owners' religious beliefs, the bill would have insulated their businesses from discrimination lawsuits. Critics saw this as a reactionary measure to ensure that Arizonans would not need to do business with same-sex couples, who have been gaining legal recognition in nearby California, Utah, and New Mexico. But the ironic part about SB 1062 is that private businesses in Arizona can already legally discriminate against gay couples, who have no legal recourse under Arizona or federal law. In fact, Gov. Brewer said she hadn't heard of a single example of a business owner in Arizona who had his or her religious liberty violated, the Times reports. Since SB 1062 was very broadly worded, opponents worried that it could have created any number of troublesome scenarios -- for example, religious business owners refusing to serve single mothers. Gov. Brewer's veto seemed to echo these concerns, but what does this reasoning mean for similar bills in other states? Other States' Bills Pending Politico reports that Georgia, Kansas, and Missouri have legislation in the works which may allow businesses to deny service to same-sex couples, and six more state legislatures are considering similar bills. One of those states is Oklahoma, where a restaurant owner recently made waves for explicitly refusing to serve gays and other minorities. Perhaps other states will learn from the failure of SB 1062 by reworking their own bills' language to avoid alienating support. As The Associated Press recounts, huge corporate bodies like Apple and American Airlines had urged Brewer to veto SB 1062, and no one can doubt their influence -- or capital. If bills like SB 1062 are to pass, they'll need to overcome these hurdles. Related Resources: What Jan Brewer's veto of SB 1062 tells us (The Washington Post) Ariz.'s SB 1062: Gov. Brewer Has 3 Options (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Arizona Immigration Bill Signed by Governor Brewer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Arizona Passes Bill Restricting Ethnic Studies (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Who Qualifies as an Expert Witness?

These days it seems like everyone proclaims to be an expert in something. But when it comes to court cases, who qualifies as an expert witness? As TV courtroom dramas show, expert witnesses are usually called in by one of the parties to help jurors understand complicated, technical concepts. However, not everyone can qualify as an "expert," and not all types of expert testimony may be permitted. Here's a general overview: Who Can Be an Expert Witness? Rules about expert witnesses are set by state and federal rules of evidence, depending on whether your case is in state or federal court. According to the Federal Rules of Evidence, a qualified expert witness is someone who has knowledge, skill, education, experience, or training in a specialized field. These qualifications are generally also required of expert witnesses in state courts. Under federal rules, experts must base their testimony on sufficient facts or data of the type reasonably relied upon by experts in their field, in order to help the jury understand issues that typically require specialized knowledge. While non-expert witnesses can only testify about what they've seen or heard, expert witnesses are generally allowed to give their specialized or professional opinion. States have similar rules, though there are notable differences among states when it comes to the admissibility of expert testimony. Admissibility of Scientific Testimony One issue that often arises with expert witnesses is whether scientific testimony will be allowed in court. For scientific issues that aren't seriously disputed, judges may take judicial notice. This means that the judge accepts the testimony as fact because it's something a person of average intelligence already knows. For more controversial scientific issues, courts must determine if the testing methods were reliable before admitting the expert's testimony. In federal courts and in many states, judges will ask whether the scientific issue in question has been subjected to peer review, whether it can be tested, and whether the procedures have been published. Courts will also look at the rate of error in the testing. In a few other states, the test used by courts is slightly different: The reliability of the scientific evidence must be acknowledged by the scientific community in order to be admitted. The expert must be qualified to conduct the testing and provide proof that correct procedures were followed. As you can see, the rules regarding expert witnesses can get complicated. For more guidance on using expert witnesses in your particular case, consider consulting an experienced litigation attorney near you. Related Resources: Can I Be an Expert Witness? (Slate) What Counts as Witness Intimidation? (FindLaw's Blotter) When Should Attorneys Hire Expert Witnesses? (FindLaw's Strategist) What is the Role of a Jury in a Criminal Case? (FindLaw)
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