What is an Expert Witness?

If you have secured the help of an attorney and are bringing your case to trial, at some point your attorney may suggest bringing in an expert witness to assist in your case.  An expert witness is someone who has very specific knowledge about a particular area and who is brought in to provide his or her professional opinion at your trial. In our increasingly technological world, expert witnesses are often essential to a lawsuit.

A person can be an expert in just about anything and can assist in a wide range of different types of trials. One example would be a wrongful death case in which a loved one was killed by wrongdoing or errors on the part of a surgeon during a surgical procedure.  An expert witness would be able to provide her informed opinion about whether or not the actions of the surgeon could have caused the death.

It is the responsibility of your attorney to find a credible expert witness, one who meets qualifications that establish him as an expert in his field. These qualifications will vary from one professional to the next, but they generally include holding advanced degrees or having extensive knowledge and skills related to the matter at hand.

Taking the Stand

Once your lawyer has found an expert witness to assist in proving your case, then what happens? The expert witness is called to take the stand, and answer questions posed by your attorney. This part of the testimony is known as the examination, and its purpose is to establish the expert witness as highly competent and therefore qualified to provide an opinion.  Your attorney may also ask the expert witness simple questions that help to clarify fundamental concepts that are important for the jury to understand. A good expert witness is one who can leverage salient concepts and visual aids to help make his testimonial memorable to jurors.

In the Crossfire

After the examination is complete, it’s time for the cross-examination. The cross-examination is the defense’s turn to ask questions of the expert witness. The defense attorney may try to cast doubt on the witness’ credibility, to disprove something she has said, or to change the expert witness’ opinion.  However, proper preparation from your attorney can help an expert witness with this part of the trial.

Will Your Case Benefit From an Expert Witness?

While there is an advantage to using an expert witness in your trial, there are also some potential risks. An expert witness is hired to provide facts objectively - not to argue your case. And you are paying for the expert witness' time - which can be costly. Ultimately, your attorney is the best person to decide whether or not an expert witness is likely to help your case.