Testifying as an expert witness can have a powerful impact on the lives of the individuals or companies involved in a current case. One amazing part of the US legal system that is often overlooked, is the fact that a decision in one case can have a significant impact on the legal system as a whole. A binding decision on a new area of law will affect similar cases throughout the state or federal judicial circuit and the influence occasionally extends to the entire nation.
One influential expert was Herbert Moskowitz. Mr. Moskowitz was the founder of the Southern California Research Institute and was a pioneer in the field of alcohol-impaired driving. Mr. Moskowitz passed away on November 21, 2012 as a result of complications from leukemia http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-herbert-moskowitz-20121217,0,7063098.story
but the effects of his research and testimony as an expert will continue to affect the laws related to alcohol and drug impaired driving for the foreseeable future. His colleagues assert that his voice and research contributed to our understanding of how alcohol impairs driving ability and that he is partially responsible for the current imposition of legal consequences for driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.
Mr. Moskowitz is the perfect illustration of the fact that the influence of some expert witnesses extends beyond the courtroom and can have a significant impact on the day to day lives of many people. Changing the way our nation looks at and prosecutes alcohol and drug related impairment is an amazing accomplishment that extends beyond the justice system.
Alcohol impairment is often an issue in civil cases involving automobiles, pedestrians and/or bicyclists. Mr. Moskowitz’s findings allow lay people to understand alcohol impairment and as a result affect the resolution of personal injury cases across the country. Many states allow an individual injured as a result of drunk driving to recover punitive damages in addition to his or her general and special damages.
Understanding alcohol related impairment also allows drivers to make better choices when they consume alcohol, leading to fewer auto accidents across the country. Mr. Moskowitz’s work as a researcher and expert witness has improved the safety of roads across the country and should be a reminder to any expert witness; you just don’t know how far reaching the effects of your work will be.
By Mary Wenzel, J.D.