Selecting An Expert Witness: Dos and Don’ts

Expert witness testimony can make or break your case. But what if you aren’t sure how to find who you need? How can you be sure that they’re right for the case even after you locate and hire them? Here are just a few “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to choosing expert witnesses.

Do: Establish Their Expertise

Maybe they’ve been a doctor for two decades. Maybe they’re the top salesperson in their district. The details matter less than the fact that they can project an air of authority when they take the stand. The ideal witness is a credible, reliable individual with a long history in their chosen field, and their demeanor should reflect that.

Don’t: Stretch Their Credibility
Opposing counsel will look for any little hole in your witness’s background, so it’s your job to ensure that they don’t find any. This is best achieved by only hiring real experts as your expert witnesses. If you claim that someone is a respected dentist only for the other lawyer to reveal that he’s been practicing a mere two months, you’ll lose credibility in front of the jury.

Do: Research Their Background
Has your witness ever been arrested? Have they ever filed a lawsuit or had a lawsuit filed against them? What’s the worst skeleton in their closet? If they’re too questionable, you might have to toss them out entirely, but minor scandals can be glossed over as long as they’re known and prepared for in advance. Whatever you do, don’t take the witness’s word about their past; do your own research and draw your own conclusions.

Don’t: Hide the Scandals
If you have to put someone on the stand despite a shady background, your best bet is to acknowledge it quickly and openly. Don’t let opposing counsel be the one to reveal it. Take charge of the situation and spin it in a way that speaks well of your client; then move on and focus on the real issues of the case. With any luck, the jury will forget about it when you give them something else to think about.

These are just a few things to keep in mind as you choose an expert witness. It’s a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly, so take your time. Find someone that inspires trust and confidence. You’ll want to feel completely comfortable putting them on the stand to help your case.

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