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The Essentials of Hiring an Expert Witness
Expert witnesses are used where a case deals with a scientific or unique industry issue and are key both in taking your case to trial and in settlement. Attorneys usually have their own preferred experts or they are referred to one by colleagues. However, it is essential to make sure that before each and every case you are actually getting the most out of your expert witness.
Finding the right expert
It is important to do your homework when you are looking for an expert witness. The first thing to consider, obviously, is his credentials and whether the subject matter is within his area of qualification. Also of importance is whether the expert has trial experience. An expert with the best credentials but with no experience may not be your best choice. In addition to possessing the required knowledge, the expert must be able to communicate effectively with the judge and the jury without getting overwhelmed. You also need to make sure that the expert you intend on using is dedicated to your case and possesses integrity.
Preparation is key
Getting started early is important, not only because it is near impossible to secure a decent expert witness at the last minute, but also for trial preparation. Your expert should be briefed thoroughly with regards to the case and how it will be presented, but be sure that you are not forcing your opinions on him. Sometimes it is more valuable for the expert to admit to a weakness than to appear as a handgun for his attorney. A mock cross-examination is advised to ensure your expert witness is as ready as possible. This will expose weaknesses in his evidence as well as weaknesses in his presentation (for example, strange mannerisms). It is better to address these issues before the trial rather than before a court. Lastly, be sure to remind your expert to be polite, respectful and to try answer in plain and simple language if they are not experienced in dealing with a judge or court.
Communicate effectively with your expert
Rather than leaving a paper trail of your communications, pick up the phone or arrange to meet your expert witness in person should you wish to speak to him. This will ensure that neither party is under a mistaken impression regarding aspects of the trial. Furthermore, it is essential to provide relevant records and documents to your expert in an organized fashion. This will not only save him time, and you money, but will ensure that nothing important is overlooked.
A trial can be a costly procedure but it is important to bear in mind that losing your case will have even more severe financial implications. It is therefore advisable that you don’t put your expert on too tight a budget. If the expert requests money for something that he feels is of great importance to the case, it would be foolish to deny him that extra expense. In addition you might be required to bring in more than one expert, if your expert is unable to testify competently on every issue in the case. Lastly be sure to pay your expert witnesses on time. You would not want his focus to be on the fact that he hasn’t been paid yet as opposed to the case at hand.