Tips for Lawyers Dealing With Expert Witnesses
Expert witnesses, like lawyers, can be a special breed. They are likely very advanced in their field (particularly if you chose well), but there is every chance that they are not as experienced with legal proceedings. Certain good practices should be maintained whenever retaining and relying upon an expert for advice, an expert report, and/or testimony. Continue reading for tips on how to communicate with your expert witness. Reach out to a qualified medical expert with any additional questions or for help with your case.
Lawyers, like other professionals, tend to want to appear like the smartest person in the room. Your expert is working for your case, and you want to maintain authority and not appear ignorant. Remember, however, that you are engaging the expert precisely because you need their expertise. They are no more an expert in the law than you are in neurosurgery or whatever their specialty may be. Do not shy away from asking questions about technical concepts, terminology, how concepts or theories interact, or any other question relating to their profession or the matter at hand. You will be much more embarrassed if you walk away not fully understanding something and it ends up being used against you in court.
Remember That You Are the Legal Expert
On the other hand, it is important to remember that you are the expert in the law, not your witness. Do not let yourself be intimidated by their knowledge of their subject matter. If you believe that they are misunderstanding a legal concept, or that their argument overlooks some other part of the case, make sure you are firm but polite in correcting them. They do not have all the details of the case, and they are not a legal expert.
Moreover, in your prep, it is important not to take for granted that they know or fully understand the details of a case. Make sure that you prep them thoroughly and that they know all relevant facts for the matter.
Your expert witness may be the smartest person in their field, but that does not mean that they will withstand the attacks of a skilled attorney on the stand. Trial lawyers know how to twist a person’s testimony and use their own words against them. They know how to get under a person’s skin. Make sure that you prepare your witness before trial by going through any possible weaknesses or lines of attack regarding their opinion, and run some mock cross-examination exercises to get them used to being on the stand. If they are not used to trial testimony, then they may be caught off-guard and their very valid opinion may be discounted by the jury.
Keep Your Expert Focused
In addition to practicing cross-examination, it is important to practice direct. Your witness is an expert in their field likely because that field excites them. They may have a tendency toward expounding upon a detail insignificant to the case but exciting for an expert. The jury may get lost in the weeds or become bored, diminishing the power of your expert’s testimony. Bring in all relevant and important details, even if they are unexciting, but make sure your expert understands that they should focus on the facts that matter, not exciting new developments in their field or other ancillary issues.
If you need a knowledgeable and effective expert witness in a personal injury, medical malpractice, or product liability case, contact the offices of Neurosurgery Medlegal Services, LLC, at 866-659-8051.