Trial lawyers often utilize expert witnesses to strengthen their case in court, but what is an expert witness, and what qualifies a person to give expert testimony? These witnesses have specialized knowledge in their career field enabling them to provide professional knowledge relevant to a specific case. While the rules defining expert witnesses differ at the individual state level and the federal level, good expert witnesses share common attributes.
Expert Knowledge in their Field
A type of litigation support specialist, expert witnesses have significant experience in the areas they are called on to testify. Their knowledge is subject matter specific and has been obtained through years of experience, practice and study in their field. Experts also stay up to date on experience and technical knowledge. Expert witnesses should have the highest, strongest qualifications in their field.
Scientifically and Technically Sound Analysis
Expert witness testimony must consist of scientifically sound analysis. This means conclusions reached by the expert are based on sufficient facts or data rather than simple opinion. For example, an experienced accountant, loan officer or bank manager can testify about their analysis of lending practices or bank records in a fraud case.
Understanding of Duties
Quality expert witnesses understand the importance of maintaining the standards of their profession while focusing on assisting the court as needed. They are also capable of keeping deadlines and managing client expectations. Expert witnesses are familiar with the process of dispute resolution having worked their way from assisting to leading the resolution process. They are proficient in managing joint expert statements, handling cross-examinations, and presenting in both arbitration and litigation processes.
Strong Communication Skills
While expert knowledge is vital, expert witnesses also need strong communication skills. Part of their job on the stand is helping jurors understand often complex industry jargon and information. A good expert witness can easily explain scientific principles, provide background information and present information in a context the jurors can relate to.
Expert witnesses play a vital role in litigation proceedings. They serve as educators to judges, jurors and attorneys on both sides. Their ability to remain true to the facts, based on their knowledge and experience, is crucial in their role as independent experts. Their job is to provide an impartial opinion on matters that fall within their areas of expertise. They are expected to practice good professional judgment in the analysis and presentation of data in written report form and in verbal testimony.