Tips for Lawyers to Work With Expert Witnesses
Working with expert witnesses is an integral part of litigation. It can be a challenge, however, especially for attorneys new to litigation. It’s important to know how to communicate with experts to ensure that they give you the analysis and testimony you need for your matter. Below, we offer a few tips for attorneys on how to work with expert witnesses. Call a professional medical expert witness at Neurosurgery MedLegal Services with any additional questions or for help with litigation.
Find the Right Expert for Your Case
It’s important to find the right expert witness for your matter. Start thinking about the expert you may need early on in the process. Consider the kinds of facts and evidence you’ll need to gather and interpret, as well as the theories you’ll need to support and the purposes for which your expert will be used. Let that analysis guide you in picking the right expert for your case.
If your matter involves a very specific issue, the more specialized an expert you can get, the better. A general practitioner of internal medicine might not be as persuasive as an oncologist who did a fellowship in the particular type of cancer at issue in your case. The earlier you narrow down the type of expert you need, the more time you’ll have to find the perfect expert witness for your case.
Experts Can Do More Than Testify
If you believe that your case requires specialized knowledge, be it science, engineering, medicine, or other technical matters, it behooves you to get an expert on your side early in the process. A qualified expert can help guide you in the discovery process, working with you to identify the kind of evidence that will be helpful to your case and to interpret that evidence once discovered. Do not wait until you need an expert report at the end of discovery only to have them tell you that they need substantially more data to make an educated analysis of the matter.
You’re the Legal Expert, They’re the Field Expert
Understanding your role and the role of the expert witness is key to building trust, confidence, and a working relationship. It’s important not to try to override or dismiss the witness’s understanding of their field, but it’s just as important not to be intimidated by the witness’s knowledge, qualifications, or expertise.
Go into meetings with your expert with questions prepared and an understanding of the matters you need to discuss. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask them to explain concepts, theories, or data that are specific to their field; there’s no reason you would already understand these matters, or there’d be no need for an expert. Make sure they can explain to you what they intend to explain to the jury; if you can’t understand it, the judge and jury can’t either.
It’s also important to remember that you are the expert on the law and the facts of the case. The witness only knows the facts that you tell them, and there’s a good chance they do not understand the full legal implications of any given fact, argument, or conclusion. Make sure to educate them on the facts relevant to the case, and if they’ve said something that concerns you because of your legal theories, make sure to explore that appropriately.
Prepare the Expert for Testimony and Cross
Expert witnesses may have experience testifying in court, or they may not. Even if they have testified previously, it’s a skill that requires regular practice and upkeep. You know just how important it is for a witness to present themselves clearly and persuasively to the finder of fact; it’s your job to make sure your expert is ready to sit for their deposition or trial.
Practice cross-examination with your expert witness. A good opposition attorney will do whatever they can to trip up your witness and undermine their credibility on cross, and the more prepared the witness is for trial, the less they will be caught off guard.
It’s also important to practice direct examination. Expert witnesses are, by their nature, in love with their area of expertise. It’s easy to get distracted by details that may be scientifically interesting but bear little use to the case, and that sort of evidence or testimony serves only to confuse the jury. Prepare your expert to testify about only the things that matter, and to explain those concepts and findings in a matter that the jury can understand.
If you need a seasoned, qualified, and persuasive expert witness in a personal injury, medical malpractice, or product liability case, contact the offices of Neurosurgery Medlegal Services, LLC, at 866-659-8051.