Because of the limited scope of this article, I will only be able to touch on the highlights and general requirements of an expert for litigation in Illinois.
In general, any and all professional liability actions require an expert to testify. The cases of legal, medical, engineering, accounting or other professional negligence involve questions of duty and breach of duty, and that usually requires expert testimony to determine if there has been a breach of those duties. In other words, the judge and jury need an expert level of knowledge in order to make a determination as to whether or not there has been a breach of the standard of care and/or fiduciary duty for that particular profession.
Not all lawsuits require experts, but there are many cases where expert testimony is not only suggested, but required. For example, in medical malpractice cases, unless there is such an obvious deviation from medical standards, i.e. cutting off the wrong leg or dropping the patient, medical expertise is required to determine whether or not the provider had a duty of care, breached the duty of care, and whether or not that breach of duty caused or contributed to any damage or injury.
As you can imagine, there are as many experts as there are fields of industry. There are maritime experts, medical malpractice experts, engineering experts, blood transfusion experts, playground construction experts, and so on.
The key to selecting an expert for use in your case depends upon both your budget and the complexity of the case. For example, you may not only need a medical expert in a medical malpractice case, but you more than likely also need a day-in-a-life expert to testify as to what the cost is of maintaining somebody’s medical services on a day-to-day basis. You may also need an economics expert to extrapolate those day-to-day costs over the lifetime of a plaintiff and reduce it to present value for the jury.
Experts come in all shapes and sizes and the determination of whether or not you need an expert depends on the kind of case you are prosecuting or defending. In retaining an expert, you must keep in mind both the cost that he or she will be charging to provide the expert testimony and the background/level of experience of the particular expert.
Experts are both needed and required in certain types of negligence cases and without them your case will either be doomed or reduced in quality to such an extent it will be very difficult to win.