Avoid Common Pitfalls When Using an Expert Witness


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There are various pitfalls that exist when attempting to use an expert witness. These exist with both the lawyer and the expert, and both should become aware of what to look out for and how to ensure a lasting and beneficial relationship.

Even if the expert has experience and years of working in the related field to the case, this does not necessarily mean he or she will assist the case. In some situations, the expert is unable to uncover the needed information. Connecting the evidence to the defendant or plaintiff is not easy, and in some circumstances the associate does not exist. This could lead to trouble for the lawyer and client. Then, even though additional monies pay for an expert, not assistance rendered helps. A new expert may need to analyze everything from the beginning. Avoiding the pitfalls is crucial to progress a claim.

Understanding the Expert

For a lawyer, the subject matter of the claim may be too clinical or out of his or her scope. The knowledge required for the claim could entail specific jargon and processes that professionals have. If the expert does have the expertise and understanding of the subject matter but cannot explain it, he or she may not be the best fit. Hiring someone that unravels the confusion is better in these cases. It is possible to discover if this is possible during the interview phase. It is important to ensure there is an understanding before the contract for hire is finalized.

The Expertís Background

The cases that an expert takes part in may affect what he or she joins in the future. There are other issues with an expert that has worked with prosecution primarily and then switches to litigation. It is important that the expert disclose any possible problems that may arise during a courtroom proceeding with his or her credentials. Additionally, if he or she has criminal convictions on record, this may disqualify the expert from testifying. The professional should communicate any possible complications to the lawyer before the case commences. This may prevent inadmissible testimony or reports.

Reports and Opinions

When an expert tasked with creating a report his or her opinion usually concludes the document. The evidence gathered provides a basis. However, the paperwork may include inconsistencies. The lawyer should review the report before presented to the judge. This may prevent possible disaster. Mistakes occur with most humans, and even experts could miss something. Proper examination and follow-through are necessary even with professionals assisting with a litigation claim. The opinions should support the report, and the conclusion would supply the judge or jury some details to deliberate on when the case concludes. Then, with a strong relationship, both expert and lawyer are able to increases chances of success.

Cross Examination

When the expert must answer questions by the opposing legal counsel, refuting some of his or her conclusions may occur. This may reverse what is understood by the jury or judge. Then, the evidence and opinions of the professional seem in conflict. The confusion that occurs could undo what the expert initially explained. The argument of the plaintiffís lawyer becomes more difficult to prove after cross examination. It is critical that the legal representative and expert witness work together to ensure the opposing lawyer is not able to unravel the testimony. This may require coaching or practice sessions. Avoiding this pitfall may become impossible to predict based on certain claims and subjects.

Some fields of study involve instances where the opinion may face opposition that sounds reasonable. The judge or jury may sway against the plaintiff if the expertís testimony is not convincing or strong enough. This may rely upon confidence and a fully understanding of the relevant field of study. Teamwork and cooperation with the expert and lawyer becomes essential to ensure the cross examination does not undo all the hard work.

Conflicting Information

In certain instances, the expert may explain details of the case to unravel confusion with the evidence or scene. However, later details may appear to oppose the initial testimony. When conflicting information occurs in the case, the lawyer and expert should communicate before it appears in the courtroom. This pitfall may lose the confidence of the judge or jury in expert testimony. It may also lead to the opposing lawyer presenting another expert that seems to refute the claims of the plaintiff expert. With hours of practice and understanding how to proceed in these situations, chances of success may increase.


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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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