Private Human Factors Experts – Cost/Benefit Analysis, Finding Experts and Daubert Challenges
A central issue which arises in pedestrian accidents is why the pedestrian did not visualize the vehicle which struck him prior to the impact occurring or did not see the dangerous condition causing the fall. Very often the answer to this question can be found in the area of human factors. Also known as ergonomics, human factors is “… the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.” See, International Economics Association, “What is Ergonomics.” www.iea.cc. As a practical matter, human factors is often used in litigation to explain why pedestrians and/or vehicles did not identify the conditions which caused the pedestrian to be injured. Likewise, human factors is also used in trip and fall cases to explain why a pedestrian did not observe the defect in a sidewalk or the other conditions which resulted in his or her fall. Such experts can be extremely helpful, but must be used only when the case value justifies the expenditure.
If an attorney is faced with a client who suffered severe injuries, but whose conduct is in question, a human factors expert can often prove an indispensable part of the attorney’s litigation strategy. If an attorney has a case of this nature, he or she is best served by identifying the need for human factors expert early in the case prior to conducting of extensive discovery. Often human factors experts can provide the attorney with areas of inquiry during the depositions that will assist human factors expert in establishing that the accident was not the fault pedestrian, but was the responsibility of the driver. Likewise, a human factors expert in a sidewalk case can explain why an individual may not readily visualize a defect and why a limited defect may still disrupt the individuals walking to such a degree that it causes them to fall. Even if an attorney does not initially identify the need for a human factors expert in the case, such experts can still serve a purpose in providing logical explanations related to why a subject incident could not be avoided. Accordingly, an attorney should not hesitate involving human factors experts in a case whenever the case has sufficient value to justify this expenditure and the plaintiff’s conduct related to the pedestrian incident is at issue.