Forensic, General & Medical
Expert Witnesses

A Guide to Deposition Questions of Expert Witnesses

     By HG.org

The beginning of a case may involve an expert witness, and he or she may need to ensure the expert testimony has enough preparation to pass scrutiny. There must be a profound integrity of evidence, a conclusion the expert supplies, competent methods and reliable information that will increase chances of success through testimony and methods used.
When facing the deposition, it is important to remain prepared for the questions and subject matter that will come up by the judge or opposing counsel. The essential parts may include the integrity, relevance and reliability of evidence and testing of the expert. This may include the work the scientist performs for the case. The competence and rate of error are crucial to remaining a designated expert. Challenges to the science behind the testimony may cause the professional to face disqualification. Additionally, the laboratory that takes part in the claim must remain above reproach and have reliability to provide the best results and consistent outcomes.

The Line of Attack

The opposing counsel is generally more able to disqualify the expert through a simple or complex line of attack. It is more common for an expert witness to face disqualification when on the litigators or defendants side in either a civil or criminal case.

Thus, the questions in the deposition must have appropriate and complete answers. Remaining calm and consulting with the lawyer at all times are part of necessary preparations. It is sometimes important to gather publications, peer reviews and further details about the theory or methods used in testing. The expert may also need to consider all possible questions and practice with the lawyer beforehand.

Evidence Challenges

Documentation about the work the expert does may face criticism or scrutiny by the opposing legal counsel. In the questioning process, the professional may need to defend the work through an explanation of details, referencing another professional or detailing the process he or she used that already has approval by the scientific community. He or she may need to answer questions about law enforcement’s chain of custody with evidence and if any other individuals handled the material. Other challenges of the evidence may arise with unsealed envelopes, hands touching the bagged materials and if another party needs to access the evidence.

Other problems connected to evidence may include contaminated evidence. Some issues with red stains, hot areas where DNA will sit and even opened envelopes that should remain sealed could cause problems for the chain of custody and keeping the evidence contained. Documenting the arrival of materials and times is important. If these details are lacking, the opposing counsel may attempt to tear the expert witness apart through cross-examination. If the evidence arrived in an unusual manner at the lab, the professional may need to investigate to determine if there was a problem. The nature of the arrival or removal of materials could lead to inadmissible evidence.

The Deposition Explained

The sworn evidence connected to the crime or injury becomes part of the case before testimony is later presented in the courtroom before the judge or jury. There are many questions that need answers, and many of them involve the expert and his or her credentials. A formal report is generally necessary in criminal cases, and civil lawsuits may or may not have a report based on the specific claim. The chain of custody in evidence, the collection methods and conditions of evidence are equally important as the testing methods the expert uses to connect the items to the defendant.

Answering challenges to the scientific work is one of the more important tasks. During the deposition stage, the expert may suffer disqualification if he or she is not able to back his or her credentials and methods of testing. Other challenges may issue negative inquiries in the conclusions of these methods. The opposing lawyer will often ask about disagreements in the scientific community about processes or interpretations in the profiles of testing. Different conclusions from others may cause a problem for the expert. Contradictions and reversing what was originally said may cause complications for the expert as well.

The Way through the Deposition

By preparing for the deposition and all possible questions that may affect the outcome, the expert may pull through and remain a designated expert witness for the case. He or she will need to answer the challenge and supply the judge and other lawyer with the necessary credentials and details, but it is possible to remain on the case.

Copyright HG.org


While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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