Tips for the Expert Witness

TASA ID: 1128

As an expert witness, I have been asked all of these questions during depositions, trial or by the hiring attorney. 

  • CV/Resume - be totally truthful and absolutely accurate, no hyperboles or embellishments. Only professional information. Know it cold. When was it revised? When did you look at it last? 
  • Dress code - no fancy suit, flashy jewelry or exotic neck tie 
  • Fees - decide if you are going to itemize or set one fee for a half-day or full day case. 
  • Website - do you list your legal work availability? Do you have a separate extensive website for legal work? (The opposition will characterize either as an advertisement.) 
  • Agencies - have you signed up with referral sources? Did you pay to join? Is it just a listing? Is it an ad? 
  • There are different firms for expert work and IME's (independent medical exams).   
  • How many plaintiff and defense cases have you reviewed? Have you testified at trial or only at deposition? How many states have you testified in?  
  • What is the source of referral for the case? 
  • Did you take over the case at the last minute from another expert who dropped out for some reason? The opposing attorney will itemize every one of your fees and say that you only took this case and gave an affirmative opinion because you knew it was going to trial and you would make more money.  
  • You have to decide how to answer: Are you more qualified than the other participants? (They may have more years of experience, cases, degrees, etc.) Should you be an expert if you don't have grey hair? Are you too young? Are you certified in your field? 
  • You should be familiar with all the different certifying agencies in your field. Do some need only a fee to join? (You can explain this if the other expert has multiple certifications that are really meaningless.) 
  • List your total fees received from your legal work by year. Know how much you billed out and received concerning the case you are working on. 
  • List your CME's annually and the journals you read regularly. 
  • Form your answer to the question: What book is authoritative in your field? (If you pick one, the attorney will find something in there that refutes your opinion, so you better know it inside and out.) 
  • Does your organization have some sort of ethics statement that you have agreed to? (You can present this to bolster your opinion.)   
  • If you decide to host a deposition in your office - is there enough room for everyone? Do you have a conference table? (There is a thought not to have a deposition at your office because you can be asked to produce more documents, research your books and make copies. You may be distracted by your office phone.) 
  • Do you accept the first introductory call from the attorney to discuss the case gratis or do you demand records first with a retainer and then call the attorney? 
  • Do you send out your CV/resume when requested by an attorney or agency looking for an expert? Do you have an accompanying fee schedule? Do you have a synopsis of your legal cases, i.e., total number, how many opinions for defense/plaintiff, how many times you have testified at deposition and/or trial, in what state, referral source. (This can be sent with your CV.) 
  • Look at the jury when answering a question. 
  • Bring models/exhibits to court after you discuss with the attorney. Or will the attorney have them made? 
  • Know the definition of "standard of care." 
  • Have you ever been disqualified as an expert? 
  • Have you been sued? (If so, know all the details.) 
  • Opposing attorney will have your previous testimony at any trial/deposition; so you should remember what you said. Does it differ from what you said now? If so, why? 
  • When you answer the opposing attorney, do you have a long answer and try to explain/teach or do you answer yes or no? 
  • Know the opposing expert and the attorney if possible. Does the attorney only handle these types of cases and; therefore, knows your terminology very well? 
  • Be courteous to all persons involved in the case, court officer, clerk and paralegal. 
  • Don't delay on your work as an expert. The attorney appreciates a quick reply to their queries. They are surprised when you get back to them in three days or under a week. 
  • Don't get mad or emotional. No yelling. 
  • Keep receipts for mileage, tolls, gas, meals, etc. 
  • Listen to the entire question before answering, even if you think you know the answer real well or it is a routine question. Pause before you answer in case an attorney has an objection.

This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of TASA. 

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