When it comes to car accidents, medical claims, employment claims, business lawsuits, or real estate issues, a credible expert witness can go a long way towards supporting your client’s case. But how do you find someone who actually supports your case and doesn’t become a distraction?
The Importance of an Expert Witness
Expert witnesses have the power to help your case in several key ways:
- Improving jury understanding: Many court cases require the exploration of a complex, nuanced topic that jury members won’t initially or intuitively understand. An expert can help bridge that gap, providing juries with the context and insight necessary to make sense of the evidence. This also has the potential to spin the case in your favor.
- Providing credibility and objectivity. Experts also provide a realistic grounding to your case. They can provide credibility and objectivity in a way that persuasive arguers like lawyers simply can’t. It can add much more reliability to your arguments.
- Expanding your resources. While building a case, you’ll need as many independent people, facts, and arguments as possible working together to create a coherent narrative. Each expert witness in your arsenal adds to that power.
Of course, these benefits are all contingent on your ability to find the “right” expert witnesses. So how can you accomplish this?
Finding the Right Expert Witnesses
These are some of the most important steps you can take to find the right expert witnesses for your case:
- Work with a litigation consulting firm. One of the first steps to take is to work with a litigation consulting firm like the Knowles Group. These firms can provide you a kind of shortcut to get the expert witnesses you need. They often have preexisting relationships with credible experts in a wide range of fields, and can give you a referral to someone they trust to provide professional, clear, and objective testimony.
- Understand the subject matter. Next, make sure you personally understand the subject matter at hand. For example, if you’re looking for an expert witness who’s familiar with a specific type of surgery, you should at least understand the basics of that surgical procedure; that way, you can ask the right questions and understand the terminology they use.
- Understand the federal rules. The federal rules for providing expert evidence can be complex. For example, rule 703 states that expert witnesses can state opinions on “facts or data in the case that the expert has been made aware of,” and not just the facts or data they’ve personally observed. There are many nuances to these rules you’ll need to understand fully before choosing an expert to work with.
- Do your due diligence. Not all experts in a given field will be fit to serve as an expert witness in your case. You’ll need to do your due diligence to uncover their past and their current disposition for this kind of undertaking. For example, has this person ever had a criminal history? Have they ever served as an expert witness in the past, and do they have any other experience in a court of law? Do they have any corporate affiliations? What kind of licensing and/or certifications does this person have? What, exactly, makes them an expert in the field? The answers to these questions may dictate whether or not this person will be an asset.
- Choose your “type” of expert witness. Generally, you can think of expert witnesses as falling into one of three main categories. First, there are academics who study this subject professionally; they tend to have a deep theoretical understanding of the field, but may have limited field experience. Second, there are practitioners, who engage in this field regularly; they have lots of practice, but may not be as well-educated as an academic. Third, there are “professional experts” who spend most of their time providing expert testimony; they’re great in a courtroom setting, but they may also be out of touch with the field in some ways.
- Conduct interviews. Once you find a handful of candidates who might serve as expert witnesses in your case, take the time to conduct some interviews with them. How does this person respond to critical questions about their field? Do they seem confident and able to hold up under pressure? What do they think about the details of your case? The more you talk to them, the clearer their “fit” into your case should become.
With the right expert witnesses on your side, you’ll have a much higher likelihood of getting the results you want. If you aren’t fully satisfied with the witnesses you initially find, keep looking until you have the right fit—there’s no shortage of experts available in most common fields.