Expert witness testimony can be invaluable. Court cases sometimes hinge on data that can be interpreted in many ways. What really happened during that car accident? Hiring a professional expert to work on your team can help you win over the jury and poke holes in the opposing argument.
Of course, you still need to be smart. Your expert can be weaponized against you as well. A clever attorney might play with the jury’s idea that the expert is a “hired” hand. This could make the jury side-eye the testimony as they’ll have the doubts that it’s coming from an objective source.
Or the expert might have trouble expressing their ideas. Complex subjects can’t always be broken down into palatable nuggets. Many experts have no idea how to explain their work to people outside of their field.
None of these problems are fatal. With the right preparation, you can make expert testimony work for you.
Below are some benefits to using an expert witness.
As a lawyer, you’re expected to fight for your client. The jury knows that you’re trying to win your case. An expert witness, meanwhile, is paid a flat fee for their opinion. If the lawyer doesn’t like what they have to say, he won’t use his testimony.
Your case becomes more believable if it’s backed up by an expert. In order to present their words in the best possible light, you should practice with the expert before trial. Otherwise, people tend to ramble and stray off focus. There’s an art in speaking to a jury.
Increased Settlement Likelihood
There are some cases where neither side wants to go to trial. Both parties would rather reach a settlement. Expert witness testimony can help move this process along. The right words will show the opposing side that it likely won’t go well for them in court.
If your expert blunders, this could have the opposite effect. That’s why it’s so important to practice with them first.
The reason you sought the help of an expert witness was because you believed that he or she had special knowledge or insight that could throw some light on your case. Often, this is true. The expert can open your eyes to new ideas.
Their insights can help you manage the case. You might even find an expert who has testified in court before.
It Helps Both Sides
Both the defense and the prosecution can benefit from expert testimony. Many people believe that it only helps the defense team but this simply isn’t true. A strong expert weighing in on the case can clear up obscurities.
Sometimes cases become mired in the legal process. Both sides begin to fear that in they’re in for a complex, expensive court process. An expert can simplify things.
None of these benefits are impossible without assistance from you. It can’t be stated enough that you can’t throw your expert to the wolves. You need to prepare them for the court experience. Run mock trials if you have to.
Court appearances can be stressful. Someone who has been hired to give their medical advice might become overwhelmed. Common issues include having trouble sticking to the subject when asked questions. The expert is in the interesting role of having to explain a very technical idea to a non-technical audience.
You also need to be prepared if expert testimony is going to be used against you. Even if you don’t agree with what is going to be said, you need to be ready for it. A sword sometimes cuts both ways. Testimony that supported the opposing side in one light can sometimes be used to promote your own version of events under a different interpretation
Expert witnesses can have a huge impact on the case. Even the best lawyer can’t predict exactly how a jury is going to react. However, a good attorney will try to present the expert’s case in the best way possible. You’re not trying to deceive anyone. On the contrary, you’re trying to share information.
Once you realize that you’ll need to work with an expert witness, start thinking about how you want to present their story. If you hear something that you don’t like, be willing to rethink your conclusions. Your expert is being paid for their real opinion, not to regurgitate what they’re told. Their thoughts might not mirror yours exactly. That’s another reason why it’s a good idea to go over potential court questions in advance.