How Does an Expert Witness Prepare For Trial?
Being an expert witness is no simple task. A good expert is not only educated and qualified in the relevant field; they must also be an effective communicator, come across as authoritative and likable to the jury, and have the wherewithal to stand up to aggressive cross-examination. A good expert will do a significant amount of work to prepare for trial, well beyond simply generating their expert report. Below, we discuss some of the important steps your expert witness will take, and you should take, in preparing for expert witness testimony. Call a qualified medical expert for help with a case or with any questions.
Reviewing Their Expert Report (and Opposing Expert Reports)
Expert reports are long and dense, and they are often generated months (if not years) in advance of a case actually going to trial. Your expert will go back through their notes, findings, and statements in their expert report in advance of trial to refresh their recollection both of their own findings and conclusions as well as the arguments from the other side that they will need to rebut. You can expect that opposing counsel will comb through their opinion in great detail, looking for anything they can use to trip up or undermine your expert, and a good expert witness will be prepared to restate and back up any of their arguments or opinions.
Reviewing the Evidence in the Case
In addition to reviewing the report they generated, your expert will likely review the evidence relevant to their part of the case. They may be called upon to back up their opinion with specific pieces of evidence, and good experts will come ready to go with specific references to bolster their assertions.
Moreover, it’s vital that your expert understand the facts of the case, so as not to get tripped up by something seemingly minor. Opposing counsel may try to confuse them, or confuse the jury, by bringing up some obscure point. An expert should know the facts of the case (at least the facts that might be relevant to their opinion or area of expertise) at least as well as the lawyer. An expert who fights with opposing counsel about the facts, as opposed to about their opinion and expertise, may lose credibility in the eyes of the jury.
Reviewing Court Papers and the Competing Sides of the Case
Your expert witness is meant to provide an objective analysis of the facts, whether that means analyzing the evidence in the case, conducting a clinical test or analysis, or explaining a scientific or technical fact to the jury. That being said, it’s helpful for the expert to understand at least some of the other publicly available information in the case, including the primary papers such as the complaint and motion briefs. While their stated opinions will be limited to the matter of their purview, it’s good to know what other issues and concepts are at stake so that they avoid accidentally stating something contrary to your position in another part of the matter. When preparing your expert for their testimony, make sure they understand the various issues and arguments at stake so that they avoid accidentally stepping on your toes.
Practicing Examination and Cross-Examination
Testifying is a skill, and skills require training and practice. Conveying all of the necessary information to the jury without confusing or boring them takes planning and consideration, and it’s important to work with your expert in advance of trial to prepare them for the task. A good expert will practice speaking calmly, slowly, but engagingly with the jury, explaining concepts in a fashion that is understandable to the layperson without coming across as either condescending or obfuscating.
Practice is especially important in preparing for cross-examination. Opposing counsel’s job is to undermine your expert’s credibility in any way they can, including by pointing out conflicting sources of information, undermining their methods, attacking their professional credentials, and otherwise trying to trip them up on the stand. Practice hostile questioning with your expert to ensure that they are ready for whatever is thrown at them on the day of their testimony.
If you need an experienced, qualified, and thorough expert witness in a personal injury, medical malpractice, or product liability case, contact the offices of Neurosurgery Medlegal Services, LLC, at 866-659-8051.