A: An expert will probably be needed to determine whether a product was defective. In virtually all products liability cases, the product’s defect is not visible to the untrained eye. An expert such as a mechanical engineer is usually needed to testify regarding testing of the product, causes of failure and the accident.
In serious injury cases, personal injury attorneys will generally review the case to determine chances of success and part of the analysis usually involves seeking expert advice. For example, in a car rollover and roof crush case, a personal injury lawyer would hire a rollover/crash expert to conduct an inspection, perform testing, and determine the cause of the rollover or roof crush. There may be engineers as well as accident reconstructionists. Fees can reach upwards of $5,000 to $10,000 just for the initial retainer and this does not always include subsequent costs such as testifying at a deposition or trial.
In order to be able to properly review the case, it is vital that the defective product be preserved. If the defective product was thrown away after the accident, it would be extraordinarily difficult to prove that it was defective.
Most personal injury attorneys work on contingency, meaning they only get paid when the injured victim receives monetary compensation (i.e., via a trial verdict or settlement). However, some lawyers work on contingency but may require the plaintiff to advance certain costs, such as an expert retainer.
In general, working on contingency means that the lawyer will review the case and obtain expert advice, at no cost to the injured victim or his or her family. If it is determined that there is no viable case, then the injured victim would owe the attorney nothing for the attorney’s time and expenses incurred in hiring an expert. If it is determined that there is a case and ultimately financial compensation, the lawyer would take a percentage for his or her fee as well as costs of the lawsuit, such as expert retainer fees. In other words, the lawyer advances costs of litigation such as expert retainer fees and would be reimbursed for them when there is a financial recovery.
Related Article: New Jersey Product Liability Law – The Basics
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