What Makes an Expert Witness Credible?

expert witnesses, Timothy Dimoff

During legal proceedings, witnesses are often utilized to corroborate a story, provide insight into motive or provide professional expertise in a subject area. It is professional expertise that makes someone an expert witness. How credible or effective the expert becomes to the legal argument is directly related to proper documentation, and a clear well-written report.

The Power of Opinion

What an expert witness has that other witness do not have is the ability to share their opinion. If a witness is not declared or proven to be an “expert” witness then they are limited to first-person observation only (i.e. what they personally saw, heard etc.). However, to make their opinions count, expert witnesses must back up their words and insights with proof of their expertise.

Documentation Must be Compelling

It is essential to have a clear Curriculum Vitae (CV) accurately depicting the knowledge, skill, training, education and experience accumulated throughout a career. Just like a resume when interviewing for a job, the CV must be factual. The CV, however, is much more detailed and must encompass all areas of experience gained by the expert witness that relates to the matter at hand. This enables the CV to establish the expert witness’s credentials.

Follow these tips to ensure the CV is compelling:

  • Make sure all information is accurate and complete (i.e. cite all authors on publications and/or presentations)
  • Make sure there are no time lapses between employment, even if there are times spent outside the expertise
  • Only include current licenses, memberships and certifications
  • State the information without editorializing

In other words, make it detailed and accurate, with no exceptions. If there are errors on the CV, the opinions given during the proceeding can be called into question. In fact, it is a well-used technique for the opposition to challenge the credibility of the witness. A sloppy or inaccurate CV just opens the door for them.

Once the expert witness has demonstrated how credible they through a viable CV, the opinion must be backed up with a compelling report.

Report Must Encompass the IRAC Rule

For any speaker, success is based on how well you communicate with your audience. For an expert witness, the communication must be conveyed with a clear, well written report. This is achieved by following the IRAC Rule:

I – Issue

R – Rule

A – Analysis

C- Conclusion

With IRAC, an expert witness demonstrates a clear understanding of the problem at hand (issue), their expert opinion about that problem (rule), the methodology backing up the opinion (analysis) and why the opinion is the correct one (conclusion). Adhering to the IRAC rule ensures the report is written correctly and demonstrates credibility to the expert witness’s opinion.

Follow these tips for a clear, well-written report:

  • Give practical advice when there is a solution because of your expertise
  • Support the opinion with substantial evidence
  • Make sure to talk to the attorney throughout the preparation process
  • Imagine every word of the report is being used against you during cross examination

Remember, if the expert witness is not considered credible, any opinion given by them during the legal proceeding will be disproved by the opposition. Show credibility with a thorough CV and a compelling report.

Timothy Dimoff Knows How to be an Expert Witness

Timothy Dimoff knows what it takes to be a credible expert witness because he has been one himself! To learn more about how to write the most compelling CV and full-proof tips for writing the most effective expert witness report, contact Tim to schedule the Tim’s Talk How to be an Effective Expert Witness today!

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