Expert witnesses are a normal part of litigation.
Who is an Expert?
The Federal Rules of Evidence state that a witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
Expert witnesses are normally paid an hourly rate and can be one of the largest expenses involved in litigation.
Expert witnesses are used in the liability and damages portion of a case. Accident reconstruction experts, engineering experts, design experts, fire cause and origin experts, piloting experts and procedure experts are examples of liability experts. Doctors, economists and vocational rehabilitation experts are examples of damages experts.
Strategies with and for Expert Witnesses
Expert witnesses are essential in instructing a jury on issues that may not be readily known. In fact, the Court may require that certain issues be presented by expert witnesses. It is important that Plaintiffs and their attorneys anticipate issues in a case that may arise that will require expert testimony. It is also important that Plaintiffs’ attorneys perform a thorough background check on their experts in order to ensure that the expert has the necessary expertise to testify and that the expert does not have a checkered professional or legal past.