Types Of Expert Witnesses

Posted in Forensics and Investigations on May 3, 2024
Types Of Expert Witnesses

There are different types of expert witnesses. The term “expert witness” refers to a person who is called to testify during a trial because of his knowledge or skills in a field relevant to the case. An expert witness, for example, could be a blood spatter analyst who can testify about the type of weapon used to commit a murder. Using this information, the defense can then demonstrate that the defendant did not commit the crime for which he is being charged.

Types Of Expert Witnesses

Types Of Expert Witnesses

Expert witness testimony can significantly alter the outcome of certain cases. Depending on the type of expert, experts can provide information that can help strengthen the case for either the prosecution or the defense. However, just because an expert testifies does not guarantee a favorable outcome for the party who called the witness. Some experts may give testimony that appears weak or as if they would say anything for a paycheck.

The main purpose of expert witness testimony is for the expert to teach the jury about a difficult topic in which he is an expert. This requires the expert to break down all of the jargon and industry speak so that the jury and everyone else – can understand. The expert must be able to communicate in a non-technical manner. Miscommunication has been the undoing of many an expert witness because it can be difficult to explain a concept that they otherwise understand so well.

Some experts get carried away and say far more than is necessary in order to answer the question. This may end up hurting rather than helping the case. It can also confuse the jury if the expert continues to ramble on without providing clear explanations for his statements.

There are different types of expert witnesses.

Testifying Experts

If the witness needs to testify in court, the privilege can no longer be protected. The expert witness’s identity and nearly all documents used to prepare the testimony will be discovered. Usually, an experienced lawyer will advise the expert not to take notes on documents because all of the notes will be available to the other party.

Generally, an expert is a person with scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge who can assist the trier of fact, which is primarily a jury. A witness must first establish his or her competency in the relevant field by examining his or her credentials. The opposing attorney is permitted to conduct a voir dire of the witness to challenge the witness’s qualifications. If qualified by the court, then the expert may testify in the form of an opinion, or as long as the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and the witness has applied the principles and practices reliably to the facts of the case.

Although experts can testify in any case in which their expertise is relevant, criminal cases are more likely to use forensic scientists or forensic psychologists, whereas civil cases, such as personal injury, may use forensic engineers, forensic accountants, employment consultants, or care experts. 

Educating Witness

The educating witness teaches the fact-finder about the underlying scientific theory and instrument implementing theory. This expert witness is called to give opinions that a theory is valid and the instruments involved are reliable. The witness must be qualified as an expert witness, which may require academic qualifications or specific training.

Reporting Witness

Called after teaching, witness leaves to stand. It is usually the laboratory technician who personally conducts the test. The witness will describe both the test and the results. When describing the test, this will venture opinions that proper test procedures were used and that equipment was in good working order.

Non-testifying Experts

The non-testifying expert can be present at the trial or hearing to aid the attorney in asking questions of other expert witnesses. Unlike a testifying expert, a non-testifying expert can easily withdraw from a case. It is also possible to change a non-testifying expert to a testifying expert before the expert disclosure date.

Vocational Experts

Vocational experts can offer opinions on whether someone is capable of returning to work. They may also offer an opinion on how long it might take to get a person trained in a particular skill or job so that they can become independent. This type of testimony may be important in a personal injury case involving lost future wages. It may also be important in a divorce case where the question is how long one spouse requires alimony.

Engineering Experts

In a product liability case questioning whether a product was designed or manufactured safely, an engineer may apply their expertise to the product and tell the jury if a designer or manufacturer knew that their design or manufactured product, when used as intended, could cause injury.

Forensic Experts

Forensic experts may offer opinions in many different types of cases. Most people associate forensic experts with criminal cases.

However, forensic experts can also be useful in civil cases. For example, in a situation involving a drunk driver who caused an accident, the amount of alcohol found in the driver’s blood, breath, or urine might be important both in a criminal case and in a civil case. Similarly, whether a fire was accidental or intentionally set may be of interest both to criminal prosecutors and the insurance company that offered coverage on the structure that burned to the ground.

Financial Experts

Financial experts can assist in many ways. In a divorce case, a forensic accountant may determine if one spouse is hiding assets or provide the court with information about potential tax consequences for various courses of action, such as one spouse keeping the house until the children are grown or how to divide retirement accounts.

Financial experts can also assist in court by determining the value of various pieces of property, from rental property or a family business. Determining the value of the estate is essential to the fair division of property and determining tax consequences. Financial experts can also help determine the value of future lost wages.

Securities Experts

In cases involving white-collar fraud, a securities expert may be important. A securities expert can examine the evidence and the state of the market at the time to make determinations about fraudulent actions. They can also assess whether a bank or other financial institution failed to meet its duties through action or inaction.

Final Thoughts

Expert witnesses who mostly testify for defendants charge more than those who testify for plaintiffs more frequently. Furthermore, those called in to testify for plaintiffs are more likely to demand an upfront retainer.

Lawyers may attempt to save money on expert witness fees by not hiring such a professional, and it is true that many cases do not require this expense. However, this is not the time to be frugal. An expert witness, for example, can make or break a case. The most expensive witnesses are frequently the most effective. When lawyers try to hire a less expensive expert witness, they frequently discover that they get what they pay for.