If your toxic tort case involves complex scientific concepts, recruiting the right expert is critical. An expert who can effectively communicate technical information to the judge and jury will lend credibility to your central arguments. But before you can identify and recruit the right expert, you need to determine what type of expert is most relevant to your case.
If your toxic tort case involves complex scientific concepts, recruiting the right expert is critical. An expert who can effectively communicate technical information to the judge and jury will lend credibility to your central arguments. But before you can identify and recruit the right expert, you need to determine what type of expert is most relevant to your case. Following are 10 options to consider:
The toxicologist is typically the primary expert in any toxic tort case. Toxicologists evaluate adverse health risks posed by chemical exposures. They specialize in different areas. For example, a reproductive toxicologist focuses on evaluating adverse health effects of chemical exposures on the fetus or offspring. A clinical or medical toxicologist is a physician with a board certification in toxicology. Some toxicologists have particular expertise in evaluating human exposures, while others specialize in assessing animal exposures. Risk assessment toxicologists focus on quantifying and assessing risks from chemical exposures. It’s important to determine what type of toxicologist is best suited to your case.
2. Epidemiologist and Statistician
An epidemiologist studies exposure-disease relationships. Casting doubt on the purported link between the exposure and the illness in your case is essential to achieving a positive outcome. A skilled epidemiologist can effectively analyze the published data on the relevant chemicals in your case and provide testimony to refute the plaintiff’s claims. Depending on the type of exposure involved in the case, you may need an occupational toxicologist or an environmental toxicologist. In addition to an epidemiologist, you should consider retaining a statistician to interpret the epidemiological data using statistical methodologies. Whether you are confronting animal experiments, epidemiological studies, or in vitro mechanistic data, the statistician can help you respond to your adversary’s interpretation of the data. Most likely you will require a biostatistician, but a statistician specializing in psychological data may also be helpful, depending on the case. You may also want to consider an expert who specializes in data analytics or informatics.
3. Industrial Hygienist
Industrial hygienists study workplace factors that may result in harm or injury to employees or contract workers. If you are confronting allegations that workplace exposures resulted in harm, an industrial hygienist can help. Industrial hygienists specialize in different kinds of assessments. Some individuals focus on airborne exposures, while others focus on assessment of physical agents, physical agents, such as nonionizing radiation and noise. If radiation is a particular concern in a case, you may want to find a certified health physicist.
4. Environmental Scientist
Environmental scientists study environmental factors that could affect human health. They are soil scientists or air and water modeling experts. They can provide hazard assessments from soil exposures or dispersion modeling for airborne chemical releases and water exposures.
All toxic tort cases involve alleged injuries to humans, so you may want to retain credentialed physicians in the relevant medical areas. Medical specialists can testify about the plaintiff’s medical condition, explain whether or not the diagnosis is appropriate, and discuss whether the medical community generally accepts a link between the disease and the exposure. Surgical or medical oncologists often testify in cases linking an exposure to a cancer diagnosis. In addition, dermatologists, neurologists, pulmonologists and cardiologists are often consulted.
Psychologists are essential to cases involving human behavioral issues. In our experience, the most relevant type of psychologist is a licensed neuropsychologist, who can address allegations of brain damage and neuropsychological deficits. However, a trained clinical psychologist can also be helpful, depending on the case.
7. Scientific Specialist
Toxic tort cases often involve issues that call for a scientist in a specific discipline. Specific scientific disciplines include genetics, molecular biology, physiology, psychology and neuroscience. Experts in these areas are often asked to provide general information to the judge or jury. Educating the judge and jury is typically a key component of the defense’s case.
8. Regulatory Expert
The regulatory expert’s goal is to provide testimony demonstrating that your client complied with the appropriate regulations. It can be difficult to find a regulatory expert. Depending on the nature of the case, you may require an expert with experience dealing with the EPA, OSHA or the FDA. A former employee at one of these agencies is usually the ideal candidate. But an expert with compliance experience may suffice.
9. Physical Sciences Expert
Many toxic tort cases require an expert in one of the physical sciences, such as hydrogeologists, seismologists, petroleum engineers, materials scientists, and process engineers. The physical sciences expert you pursue will depend on the specific facts and allegations in your case.
10. General Causation Expert
A general causation expert will wrap up your case by telling the causation story. This expert is often an epidemiologist or a clinical toxicologist. But it is helpful to place them in a separate category because of their specific role in the case. This expert should have the knowledge and training required to synthesize the science in the case and reach a conclusion about causation.
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