HERE IS HOW TO HELP YOUR EXPERT WITNESS WITH YOUR CASE
WHAT IS AN EXPERT WITNESS
Your attorney has recommended that you or they hire an expert to review your case materials and possibly inspect your vehicle but what is an expert witness? Expert witnesses are just that. They are court trusted experts in their field of study or practice. In vehicle cases involving lemon law and breach of warranty, experts are usually mechanics or professional vehicle inspectors that have multiple certifications in their field. They have performed countless inspections on vehicles in the past or they have provided many repairs. More often than not, an expert usually has an area of expertise such as mechanical breakdown or drivability concerns.
Your attorney is the professional at choosing the right expert for the right job. Your best bet is to let them do that for you. If your case is regarding lemon law, breach of warranty, fraud or misrepresentation your attorney likely already has a list of experts he or she works with. If any of these are your situation and your attorney has recommended an expert witness vehicle inspector then these following tips will assist your expert in your case.
For starters, the expert is objective and only knows what you can provide them with. Not only do they only know what you provide them with, but they can only rely on as much information as you can give them. The more records and documents you can provide to your expert the better opinion he or she can write for your case. Most cases get thrown out of court or don’t even make it there because the expert did not have enough information to form a solid opinion. I have had this happen in quite a few cases except mine don’t get thrown out, I just don’t accept the case without the proper documentation. Here are some solid points to help your expert inspector throughout this journey.
The story is handy and gives your expert a place to start looking. Some clients even make a timeline of when the vehicle was in for repairs or when they experienced the issues. I am not meaning your life story or how the car issues have affected your allergies or getting your kids to school. I am talking about what issues you are having with your vehicle. What type of issues, such as leaks, shaking, vibration, shifting, electrical problems, have you had with your vehicle. How many times has your vehicle been in for repair each of these issues. Your story needs to stand up to your repair documents. Your expert will not be able to substantiate your claim unless it is documented in your repair records even if you have written it down.
Purchase documents are everything. Without clear and legible purchase documents the expert vehicle inspector is not able to state that you are the actual owner of the vehicle. Your expert needs a true and accurate copy that he or she can read, verify is the real purchase agreement and they need to be able to see the entire document in once piece, not multiple photos and close ups. Additionally, the expert will also need the purchase documents to verify the purchase price of the vehicle. This needs to be the price of the vehicle only, not the total with the taxes and add-ins from the dealer. Often, taxes and fees get rolled into the finance agreement and some states do not require the figures to be separated. Other good documents that help with your purchase documents is bill of sale, finance agreement, warranty / vehicle service contracts, title application, sales tax, and tax receipts. Remember, the important thing is that these documents are provided in their full context, clear and legible. Most vehicle inspection experts prefer these documents to be scanned into individual PDF files and labeled what they are. Remember, you are likely paying your expert by the hour, the easier you make it on them, the less time they will have to spend sorting and flipping through your documents. Time is money. In this case, it is your money. One more thing to mention about documentation is that your expert usually does not like to accept documents directly and will likely request that you send them through your attorney. This may seem silly but it is to ensure that your case file is updated with your records. Your expert does not update your case file with your attorney’s office.
THE REPAIR DOCUMENTS
Repair documentation is what your expert will rely on the most in your case, especially for lemon law and breach of warranty claims. The lemon law is pretty simple. The manufacture is required to be provided reasonable time and repair attempts to repair your vehicle. What is considered unreasonable? Well that does depend and that is where your expert comes into play. Some issues are harder to resolve than others and some repairs take longer as well. But the most important thing to remember is that your expert can only comment on what is provided to them. So if you think it has been looked at six times for the same leaking oil pan, then the repair records need to say that or at least something close. If you only have three visits to the repair center for the leaks documented, guess what… That is only what your expert can comment on. Documentation is everything. So my point here is really this… If it isn’t documented, go get it documented and resubmit it to your expert. Similar to the purchase documents, your expert needs to be able to see ALL pages of the repair documents, even your oil changes and tire rotations. These often help provide preventive maintenance has been performed and clears up questions right off the bat about your case. Vehicle inspection experts often prefer to have clear, easy to read and navigate files. I have had clients take photos and send me repair records page by page and that creates a huge mess of files and takes a long time to sort through. I have also had other clients send me repair records organized, scanned into individual files with the repair order number or invoice number as the file name. Things go much faster when clients can organize and label their files before sending them over to the expert vehicle inspector.
THE INSPECTION PROCESS
In many cases an onsite physical inspection of your vehicle will need to take place. Most of the times these inspections take place at your residence and sometimes at your place of employment. Prior to the inspection, it is best if the vehicle can be freshly cleaned on the interior and exterior. It doesn’t have to be a full detail but a simple clean out and vacuum goes a long way for your inspector. Relax and just take a breath, there is no need to stress about the inspection. The expert is not there to judge you or your situation. The expert is there to simply perform an inspection of the vehicle and attempt to confirm the issues you are reporting and document what they can for your case.
Sometimes a test drive may be required for your inspection, sometimes it is not. Almost all cases I ask that the client rides along with me for a portion of the test drive to demonstrate the concern. Once they have demonstrated the concern I usually try and replicate it and diagnosis what is happening and why. I urge you to drive normal and do not try and exaggerate the issue. Your expert will see right through it. I recently had a premature brake wear case and the client was driving like a fool, almost to the point I got out to the car and took and Uber back to my truck. The only thing that exaggeration does is make your case look weak and your expert question the validity of your concerns.
Sometimes the expert will perform a full inspection of the car inside and out and sometimes just the specific location where the issue is happening. In most cases, the expert has already looked over your repair records and files before the inspection is ever even scheduled so they have an idea what is going on and what to look for. When you meet with your inspector tell them about the main concerns in your complaint, please do not load them up with tiny details and the whole story, your inspector can get overloaded and then get off track and miss things. Stick to the main points and concerns on the vehicle. Don’t be surprised or taken aback if the inspector only checks a couple things on the vehicle and says they are done. In some cases, where there is not much documentation, a much more detailed inspection will be required. Again, documentation is everything, and time is money.
Scaring off the gremlins is something that inspectors have a tendency to do. We don’t doubt that the issues exist; we are there to witness and document the issues you are having. Here are some pointers on how to make sure we can witness or duplicate your concerns.
Firstly, pay attention to when the concerns are happening in your normal operation of the vehicle. Pay attention to the temperature outside, how long you were driving the vehicle, what speed were you driving the vehicle, were you under acceleration or deacceleration, were you braking or coasting, were you turning left or right, was the vehicle warm or cold? Being able to replicate the concern is crucial for your inspector and provides them with good information for your case to be written on. For those intermittent electrical problems it is best to pay close attention to the details on how you are operating the controls and the environment in which you are using them… For instance, I had a client with an entertainment screen issue that would only occur when her phone was connected through Bluetooth and was receiving a phone call once in a while but it would not do it if connected through the USB cord. Through some onsite troubleshooting we discovered the caller she was always dropping calls from had some strange characters in her contact name that evidently the entertainment system could not display during the call. Once we removed those characters and the call was placed again there were no longer any issues. Sometimes it just takes someone else to take a step back and look at everything working together. I would have never guessed it myself, I just happened to see the special characters in the contact list in the phone and put 2 and 2 together. Later that same report became a TSB for the manufacture and helped 100’s other vehicle owners.
TAKE A WAY
So to wrap things up I just want to say that the best case is built on documentation. Purchase documents, repair documents, TSB’s recalls, vehicle history reports and your detailed timelines. The more documentation you can provide your vehicle inspection expert witness the better off your case will be presented. Also be sure to organize your documents well. Make sure you document files are named well, make sure the documents are easy to read and see. Make sure the documents are complete and nothing is missing.
FREE CHECKLIST OFFER
To help you out we have made this short checklist for you to use when getting your case and files together before you send them to your attorney or your expert witness inspector. No gimmicks or forms to fill out. Just click download and get your free checklist today.