Things Every Expert Witness Needs to Know

As an expert witness, you’ve been called to share your feedback and professional assessment of evidence pertaining to a particular case. Whether you’ve been called as a forensics expert for a tax fraud case, a psychiatrist in a criminal case, or a medical expert in a malpractice case, your testimony can make the difference for the client. Take time to not only prepare for testimony but also when answering questions, review past testimony, and understand the attorney’s strategy are a few of the things every expert witness needs to know.

Review the case.

If you’ve provided reports in the case and have been called to testify in court, make sure you’ve reviewed those documents and can answer without hesitation as to the facts of the case. 

Talk to the attorney.

It’s helpful to understand the strategy of the attorney for whom you are appearing and to get to know their style. They might be asking a series of questions to get you to a certain place in evidence or they may get right to the point. It’s helpful for you to know ahead of time. 

Choose words carefully.

Before answering a question, run it through in your mind to be sure you understand what is being asked. This is especially true when you’re on the stand being cross-examined. Saying, “No,” means an absolute negative just as, “I don’t recall,” is an admission that you don’t remember, nothing more, nothing less. Be careful in your word choice so that you’re not caught in a war of words with counsel.

Clarify as needed.

Just as you need to choose your words carefully, so should the person questioning you. “Did you review the facts of the event?” can lead to ambiguity. Was “the event” the crime allegedly committed or something else? You need to know before you can answer so ask for clarification.

Be relatable.

Keep in mind the jury isn’t a group of other experts in your field. They are people from the public with a variety of backgrounds and levels of professionalism. It’s important to make your testimony relatable to everyone to have the biggest impact on the case. If the jury doesn’t understand what you’re saying, they might not be able to do their job.

A well-spoken and prepared expert witness can make the difference in a case. The next time you’re called to testify, make sure you’ve got the time to review the case and understand the attorney’s strategy so you can do your best on behalf of their client.

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