David Tuffin of the firm Tuffin, Ferraby, & Taylor writes In my expert opinion: How to pick an expert witness
Expert witnesses can make or break a case, so it’s vital to pick exactly the right (independent, knowledgeable and impressive) person for the job. With the construction industry seeing a significant rise in litigation and conflict there is going to be an increase in demand for reliable expert witnesses called in by lawyers to either help defend or support their clients’ cases.
The biggest challenge facing those selecting an expert witness is how to ensure that the person they call upon is going to help and not hinder the case. Often the evidence the expert provides can make or break a case and therefore choosing the right person is of utmost importance.
According to the Civil Procedure Rules “it is the duty of an expert to help the courts on the matters within his expertise and this duty overrides any obligation to the person from whom he has received instruction.” Courts tend not to look favorably at witnesses with a vested interest in the outcome of a hearing. It is therefore important to make sure you assess any potential conflict of interest from the start. The safest option is to get an expert from an independent firm.
The high cost of going to court is resulting in the majority of disputes – about 80% – being resolved through negotiations and mediation. This will usually see the experts for both sides sitting around a table and arguing their cases in order to find a middle ground. Mediation is a fine art and therefore finding an expert who is experienced in mediation and has undergone specific training can work to your advantage.