Understanding the Role of an Expert Witness

Expert witnesses are an essential component of the American legal system. They serve the critical function of being able to break down technical terms and scenarios so jurors can understand them and reach fair verdicts. We’ll look at what expert witness services require of their people, and how the process works.

Role of an Expert Witness
photo: medscape.com

Expertise

Beginning with the obvious, and expert witness must possess expertise in a certain field to be considered for expert witness services and selected. If the case involves medical malpractice, for example, an expert medical witness would need to be well-versed in the type of medicine being practiced, and the procedure in question. If a lawsuit involves a dispute about storm damage, a meteorologist might be called as an expert witness to break down the weather conditions on the day in question.

Objectivity

In addition to having great knowledge on the subject at hand, expert witness services need testimony from people who will divorce themselves from feelings about the case. They must objectively and truthfully use their expertise to present facts and answer questions. The tricky part of this is that the expert witness is hired by one party or the other. That means that they are inherently working on behalf of the defense or the prosecution. That said, a good expert witness understands that their value comes from their objectivity, and if they want repeat work, they must have a reputation for integrity.

Process

After they are hired and given the relevant facts of the case, they submit a written report to the court summarizing their interpretation of the information in front of them. In some cases, that report may be sufficient. If the case moves on to trial, however, the expert witness will need to be prepared to be cross-examined by both sides, and provide objective testimony, answering questions under oath.