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How to choose an Expert Witness.

Posted on 01/01/2009 · Posted in Expert Information

Experts are in nearly all cases instructed by the litigation solicitors. This is an important step in building a case for a trial hearing and it needs to be done in a way that is compliant with the court procedure. A good expert witness will be the person who makes sense for the judge or jury complex scientific or technical matters and explains how these matters fit with the party’s theory of the case. A bad expert witness can lead to confusion or worse sway the trier of fact to rule against the party.

What should you look for in an Expert Witness?

There are a number of important attributes that you should make sure that your expert has and these include:

  • A real expertise in the specific area under consideration may that be construction, banking or creative property to name a few;
  • Suitable qualifications;
  • An understanding of his or her duties as an expert in the court and knowledge of standard court procedures internationally where necessary;
  • Ability to understand the case and the claims made by the Claimant;
  • Ability to express his or her views in an articulate, concise and intelligible manner; if an expert has given talks in his area of expertise in the past it is often a good indicator that the expert will stay focused and not meander from the issue at hand in court.;
  • Confidence in giving evidence under oath;
  • Is not liable to bias, that is to say that the expert does not work in a field in which business or trade secrets may be used to their advantage outside of court;
  • Will not change his or her view except where new evidence is produced;
  • Will not be bullied by any other expert or in cross examination by counsel; and lastly;
  • Will carry credibility with the judge or jury depending on who will be deciding the outcome.

At Expert Evidence we pride ourselves in all our experts having all the above. When selecting an expert witness it may also be useful to determine whether or not they have published work in their field. This demonstrates that their ideas have withstood industry scrutiny, and therefore makes them more reputable to make assumptions in cases thereafter.

At the Expert Witness Institute experts are often selected by recommendation through barristers who have found them to be an asset to their trial in the past. In some cases, when the dispute requires specialised knowledge, such as disputes over creative property it may be necessary to seek out experts independently.

The Expert Witness Institute uses directories such as The Academy of Experts and J S Publications to develop a large list of reputable contacts.

How is an expert instructed?

The assessment of the expert is usually the first important step. The solicitor will probably want to know what his or her expertise is in the specific area that the case involves and also what experience the expert has in writing reports and giving evidence under oath. The Expert Witness Institute, Academy of Experts, and Sweet and Maxwell all have accreditation procedures so you can see who has successfully worked as an expert before.

Once trusted experts are identified institutions such as Expert Evidence will work hard to ensure that experts are well equipped to fulfil their duties in court. These may include hosting inter-disciplinary seminars and workshops that permits an assessment of the individual’s qualifications but also about his or her appearance, oral skills, demeanour, and positions on various issues. Once an expert is selected for a particular case, it will also be necessary to ensure that the expert does not have any conflicts of interest with the litigation parties. Expert Evidence concentrates on banking, investment and tax litigation.

You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.”
Albert Camus

It will then be necessary for the expert to provide the solicitor with the terms of business (‘ToB’). This is normally a standard document and deals with the way that the charging will be made, methods of payment and responsibility and liability.

The solicitor will send the expert a list of questions (the ‘Instruction Letter’) that they specifically want the expert to address. This will normally request that the expert should produce a report in conformance with various court rules (in the English Civil procedure rules this is laid out in part 35, and part 33 for criminal trials) and finally specify any dates that have been ordered by the court for exchange of reports or trial dates. The expert will need to keep these free.

Finally the expert will need to provide a quote on the cost of the work required. This stage has now become particularly important under the Jackson reforms introduced in early 2013.

When this is all agreed so the expert will be able to start work.

Expert Evidence prides itself on assisting throughout the legal process where required and is a professional firm concentrating on the four main areas of dispute resolution; acting as expert witnesses in financial litigation, mediation, arbitration and adjudication. The firm has a civil, criminal and international practice and has advised in many recent cases. Areas of specialisation include banking, lending, regulation, investment, and tax.

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Read the next article – What constitutes bias in an expert witness?

Disclaimer please confirm any of the above views with your solicitor. Expert Evidence takes no responsibility or provides any guarantee that the views above are correct for your particular case or jurisdiction.