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What are the Best Tips for Testifying As an Expert Witness?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Testifying as an expert witness is a good way for experienced professionals to supplement their income and provide important services to the community. Most expert witnesses are senior officials in their particular field; it is not unusual for them to be extremely well-known and well-regarded in their area of expertise. There are many important factors to consider when testifying as an expert witness, both for individual cases and as overall career strategies.

It is important to remember that, as an expert witness, everything written may be open to examination by the opposing side. Some experts recommend being very careful what is written to the legal team, as it may be turned against the expert witness in the course of a trial. It is, however, vital to keep detailed and clear notes during research, analysis, and when testifying as an expert witness. Keep records of all articles or scholarly reports written outside of the legal world as well, as an opposing legal team can find these and use them in court to suggest that an expert is contradicting previous statements on the matter.

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One of the most important tips for testifying as an expert witness is to stick to the facts. It may be easy to start thinking in hypothetical situations and turning suppositions or inference into fact. Expert witnesses are generally intelligent and may be inclined to give an answer rather than admit they cannot know for certain. This can be seriously damaging to testimony and the reputation of the expert witness; if a question cannot be answered factually, generally the rule is to not answer it.

Consult carefully with the legal team before going to a deposition or testifying as an expert witness. Remember that while an expert witness may be an independent professional, the opposing legal team is definitely not. Many lawyers will attempt to damage an expert's testimony by leading him or her astray with hypothetical questions, confusing statements, and irrelevant lines of questioning. The legal team that has retained the expert is responsible for informing him or her about possible traps or strategies the opposing side may use. Since testifying as an expert witness puts the reputation of the expert on the line, it is best to be as prepared as possible.

It may also be important to understand the legal issues of the case as well as the facts needed for testifying as an expert witness. Understanding the implications of the trial may help prepare an expert witness for cross-examination by the opposing side. While it is important to maintain loyalty to the facts, it may also help to have a clear idea of the legal terms, issues, and possible outcomes of the trial.

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