During legal proceedings, witnesses are often utilized to corroborate a story, provide insight into motive or provide professional expertise in a subject area. There are two types of witnesses – those who saw and heard what happened and those who can evaluate the evidence and are called upon in a deposition or trial about their judgment.
What Exactly is an Expert Witness?
They are people with extensive experience or knowledge in a specific field or discipline beyond that expected from a layperson.
According to Federal Rule of Evidence 702, expert witnesses must have knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, which will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.
Expert Witnesses Must Have a Factual CV
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, the CV must be factual.
When writing or evaluating CVs, follow these tips:
- Ensure all information is accurate and complete, including citing all publications and 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
- The information is clearly stated without editorializing
If there are errors on the CV, the opinions given during the proceeding can be called into question. The opposition uses this technique to challenge the expert’s credibility.
The Report They File Must Include the IRAC Rule
The communication from an expert witness must be documented in a clear, well-written report. This is achieved by following IRAC:
I – What is the Issue?
R – How was the Rule Affected or Broken?
A – What tools did the expert use in their Analysis?
C- What is the expert’s Conclusion?
Adhering to IRAC ensures the report is written correctly and demonstrates credibility to the expert witness’s opinion.
If you are an expert, follow these tips for a clear, well-written report:
- Give practical advice based on your expertise
- Support your opinion with substantial evidence
- Make sure to communicate with the party who hired you 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, the opposition might disprove any opinion given during the legal proceeding. Show credibility with a comprehensive CV and deliver a compelling report.
“I have been a National Court Expert Witness for over 25 years. Today, more than years before, the expert’s professional credentials and experience are scrutinized and crucial more than ever during testimony and directly impact the case outcome!” shares Tim Dimoff.