Missouri courts recognize two kinds of experts in personal injury cases: non-retained experts and retained experts. Missouri court rules treat these two categories differently. Non-retained experts are individuals who act in a specialized capacity and whose involvement occurs because of the role they play in providing services to the injured party. Examples of non-retained experts include ambulance crews, treating doctors, and police officers.
Retained experts are those who have specialized knowledge in a particular area and are involved in the case as a result of a lawyer hiring them. Often, a client’s case requires proof of things the non-retained experts may not be qualified to provide an opinion on. For instance, in a car accident case, a lawyer may need to prove the life expectancy, employability or functional disability of an injured person. Most of the time, non-retained experts would not be qualified to render expert opinions on these topics. In fact, any Missouri judge would prevent a non-retained expert from giving opinions outside the scope of their field of expertise. Under this scenario, a personal injury attorney would have no other option but to hire a retained expert: the alternative “option” is to have the judge dismiss the case because the party cannot prove the case.
Unfortunately, there are some defense lawyers in the St. Louis area who hire unscrupulous experts who are more interested in getting paid money than telling the truth. These experts are sometimes referred to as “hired guns.” There are a number of “hired guns” in the St. Louis area who are routinely hired by insurance company lawyers to help minimize or defeat an injured person’s case. Because we have deposed hundreds of these people, we have an extensive book on many of these “experts.” Missouri courts have allowed discovery of these experts’ earnings, appointment books, calendars, schedules and 1099 forms. We routinely use these documents to prove these individuals are simply puppets saying whatever they are told to say.
Overall, expert witnesses are a critical part of most any Missouri personal injury case. Experts are essential in obtaining a full and fair result. We recommend you ensure your personal injury lawyer uses credible experts by researching the expert’s web site, credentials and testifying history. If you believe your expert is a “hired gun”, you may have hired the wrong lawyer. Ideally, you should discuss selection of the expert witnesses with your lawyer prior to that person being retained. The proper selection and use of expert witnesses can make the difference between a bad result and a great result.