When Are Expert Witnesses Used?
By Dennis and King Law in Chattanooga, TN.
An expert witness is used when scientific, technical or specialized testimony helps a jury understand the evidence or resolve a disputed issue.
What Are the Required Qualifications of Expert Witnesses?
The Tennessee or Georgia Rules of Evidence do not spell out specific qualifications for an expert witness. Instead, an attorney must convince the judge hearing a case that the particular expert witness possesses technical or specialized knowledge that regular people do not. Additionally, your attorney must convince the judge that the expert witness’s testimony will be reliable and helpful to a jury. While a witness may be a witness because of the expert’s education, professional experience or specialized training, a witness may also be an expert because of their experience in a trade, such as a car mechanic.
Is Evidence given by an Expert Always Admissible?
If a judge determines an expert witness’s testimony to be inadmissible, they will exclude it. To be admissible, the testimony must meet the following five conditions:
- Is the evidence helpful to the judge or jury?
- Is the witness qualified?
- Is the testimony based on sufficient facts or data?
- Is the testimony a product of reliable methods or principles?
- Did the expert apply the facts of the case reliably?
Additionally, if the expert witness’s testimony will confuse the jury, unfairly prejudice the jury against one of the parties or is simply repetitive of other testimony, the judge may exclude it.
How to Choose an Expert Witness
The attorneys of Dennis and King consider many issues when deciding if a client’s case requires an expert witness. Here are just a few:
- Is the expert a good teacher in that he or she can explain difficult concepts clearly?
- Is the expert persuasive or will the expert be “wishy-washy” under cross-examination?
- Does the expert have the time to prepare for a case?
- Does the expert testify for only plaintiffs? If so, will the defense will have an easy time demonstrating that your expert is biased and his or her opinion is not independent?
Do Expert Witnesses Always Testify?
Attorneys do not always hire experts to testify. Sometimes, attorneys hire experts just to evaluate a case. For example, if a staircase collapses and badly injures someone, an expert may be helpful in determining the cause of the collapse and whether or not the collapse was the result of faulty materials, poor construction or poor maintenance. Depending on what the expert finds, the injured person’s attorney may not give the expert’s report to the other party in discovery and the expert will not have to testify.
Do I Need to Talk to an Attorney About Expert Witnesses?
If you feel you have a case where an expert witness will be required, you should consult an experienced attorney like the ones at Dennis and King. Trying a case is very complicated and you need an attorney with experience in choosing and working with the right expert witness. Remember Dennis and King – We take care of everything.