Expert witnesses can make or break a trial. If you’ve never hired one, however, you might be wondering where to start and what to ask when interviewing prospective candidates. Here are just a few queries that every expert witness should answer.
1. Why are you an expert?
What degrees do they have? How long have they been working in their field? Do they have any proof of their specialties, and can they produce things like certification or accreditation from official industry organizations? You’ll want paper documentation to back up their claims of expertise.
2. Have you ever been in legal trouble?
The ideal expert witness has no history of criminal behavior, not even speeding tickets or unpaid taxes. Opposing counsel will use anything and everything to discredit your witness and diminish their trustworthiness in the eyes of the jury. If your expert witness has something big on their record like a felony charge, forget them entirely.
3. Have you testified in front of a jury before?
This is one of the most important parts of hiring an expert witness. If they’re a world-class specialist in their field but dull, boring or incomprehensible on the stand, you might as well not hire them at all. You’re looking for someone with an engaging yet authoritative pretense who can use layman’s terms to the actual laymen on the jury.
4. How much do you charge?
Most expert witnesses charge by the hour. Others, however, might charge you by the day, and some might be willing to work out low-cost or alternative fee arrangements if you’re under a budget. It all depends on the witness in question, and that’s why it’s better to discuss money upfront instead of leaving things unsaid and assumed.
5. When are you available?
This is especially critical if your expert witness is a doctor, tax advisor or someone else with a demanding schedule. There’s no use hiring them if they’re never actually available to take the stand, so get out your calendar and make sure that they’re free when the trial is supposed to start.
If you’re looking for expert witness services, these are just a few things to consider before you make your final selection. Whatever you do, don’t make the decision lightly. Look at all the angles before signing on the dotted line.