Use of Experts in Livestock Accident Cases

Generally, when your case involves proving something that falls outside the common experience of the trier of fact (the jury in most cases), your attorney should definitely consider hiring an expert witness.  It may even be necessary in some jurisdictions in order to keep your case from getting dismissed.  An expert witness is someone who has scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge that will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence at issue.

For example, in most medical malpractice cases, you would need an expert witness since most laypersons are not familiar with the standard of care required for a physician.  In other words, the jury would benefit from hearing a doctor speak about what a reasonable doctor would have done when facing the same circumstances as the doctor being sued.

In some livestock situations, an expert may not be necessary.  For example, if the livestock owner simply forgot to close a fence or gate, then it probably does not fall outside the common experience of a layperson to decide that farmer was careless and negligent.  (That being said, even in apparently straight forward cases involving relatively routine facts, you should always be on the lookout and check if the opposing side will hire any experts.  If they hire an expert and you fail to hire one to offer a competing opinion to rebut their expert, this may be detrimental to your case.)

In many livestock accidents, an expert witness can be extremely helpful, and even necessary, in helping you prove that the livestock owner was negligent.  Experts on fences or animal behavior will be of particular importance.  Some potential subjects for an expert witness in a livestock accident case may include:

  • Possible escape points in a gate, where its’ not obvious how the animal escaped
  • Whether the owner properly installed a fence according to the fence manufacturer’s requirements
  • Whether a different type of fence was necessary to avoid risks of escape (electric vs. nonelectric fences)
  • Whether a secondary fence, or “internal perimeter” was advisable
  • Whether a fence complied with any state or local laws in place
  • Whether the fence was too low, worn out or otherwise defective
  • Whether feeding time or diet may have contributed to the animal’s motivation to escape
  • Whether the fence’s location was a material factor in the animal’s escape (For example, if lush pastures or food are in immediate view on the other side of the fence, this may affect an animal’s motivation to escape.)

As you can see, many possible issues relating to livestock accidents and the escape of farm animals likely fall outside the common experience of a layperson.  Accordingly, if the argument against the livestock owner can be bolstered by expert opinion, your attorney should hire me.

If you decide to hire an expert, it is generally a good idea not to wait until the last minute.  For numerous reasons, it can actually be cost-effective and beneficial for your case to consult with an expert at the early stages of your case.  For one thing, the expert may help you narrow the issues in the case, so you do not waste your time, money, and energy on issues that may ultimately be unimportant.