Professional blogger Rosemary Jones provides her perspective on the common problems of being an expert witness. Ms. Jones writes on several niches particularly in law, including personal injury, estate planning, business law, real estate law, construction law, criminal defense law and DUI law. Read more about her blog posts on Band Gates & Dramis.
Common Problems of Being an Expert Witness
An expert witness is often hired to provide their opinion on the facts of a case and the entailed legal proceedings. have both the knowledge and practical experience to offer their perspective on the matter, being specialists in their fields. While at first glance, it might seem like an easy thing to be an expert witness, in reality, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. Some problems can appear when one is an expert witness, as you will have the opportunity to read below.
Extensive preparation required
Whether you are an expert witness in a criminal defense lawsuit or any other type of lawsuit, thorough preparation is required. This can place a toll on your energy levels, forcing you to spend a lot of hours researching the case in question. However, the lack of preparation can damage the lawsuit, especially if the facts you have provided are incomplete or, worse, incorrect. The one thing you do not want is to lose your credibility in the courtroom and in particular with the jury.
The challenge of presenting information
As an expert witness, you will no doubt have a lot of things to say about the topic you have been asked to submit your opinion on. However, you might be tempted to use a lot of complicated terms, which the jury will fail to understand. This is not necessarily a problem, but it can be a challenge that you need to address; you should be able to present your opinion, using terms that anyone can understand. If you are too technical or use too much industry jargon, the level of comprehension will be little, and your opinion will not be valued as it should.
Having to rely on the information provided by the attorney
This is one of the biggest problems one can encounter as an expert witness and one that can change the outcome of a case. You should never rely exclusively on the information provided by the attorney, as he/she advocated for his/her client and is not interested in other parties. It is for the best to sign a written agreement for the testimony you are about to provide, establishing your rights and scope of the engagement. Take your time and research the case yourself, asking for access to the records as well. Do not assume that the information you have been provided with is also correct or complete.
Temptation to provide more than an expert opinion
As an expert witness, you will play a significant role in the legal proceedings involving the case. However, you should never forget that you are there to present your opinion on a particular topic and not the case itself. The temptation to provide more than your expert opinion might be present, but this does not mean you should follow such urges. You need to maintain your objectivity at all times and make sure that you remain credible in the eyes of the jury.
Being coerced into giving your expert opinion
Some lawyers can be bullies, trying to force you into giving your expert opinion for a case. It is important that you want to come in as an expert witness and not feel forced. Once again, it is imperative that you sign a written agreement, in which your engagement will be precisely detailed. You might also pay attention to any written document – the lawyer might offer to write your report for you. Any document should be prepared by yourself, and you should never sign something, just because you have been bullied into this decision.
No previous meetings with the lawyer
Often, the lawyer meets the expert witness right before the legal proceedings are about to start. This lack of briefing can cause a lot of difficulties for the expert witness, especially since most lawyers do not take the necessary time to read the written reports for the testimony in question. Given this insufficient research, the lawyer might end up making the wrong assumptions about the expert testimony or be unable to understand the information presented.
Trial rescheduling and delays
In a court of law, trials are frequently rescheduled or delayed, often without any notice being given. This causes one to wait around in court, having problems with their jobs and suffering from financial losses at the same time. This poor time management is one of the most often encountered problems with being an expert witness. It also prevents such experts from being willing to provide their opinion for future trials.
Not being familiar with the legal courtroom proceedings
If you are asked to come in as an expert witness for the first time, it is only natural not to be familiar with the legal courtroom proceedings. In fact, very few expert witnesses have a good understanding of what goes on in a courtroom. It is common for such an expert to be nervous or anxious about what will happen during his/her court appearance; a previous meeting with a lawyer can ease some of the anxiety, as the expert witness can receive useful tips on how to explain himself/herself or respond during the cross examination. Not being familiar with the legal courtroom proceedings remains one of the top reasons for which a lot of people avoid coming in as expert witnesses.
Being an expert witness is a challenging task, but you have to remember that your testimony can make or break a case. If you have decided that you are up for the task, make sure to sign a written agreement that defines your scope of the engagement. Meet with the lawyer and discuss the case, as well as the legal courtroom proceedings and your appearance. Ask questions in case there are any uncertainties and take your time to research the case yourself. Last, but not least, make sure to present your opinion in a manner that is objective, transparent and straightforward.