A Litigator’s Guide for Working with Forensic Expert WitnessesBy HG.org
Forensic experts will provide a clear picture of what happened during the incident or crime, and through evidence or recreating the situation, the professional may have enough details to demonstrate how the defendant is at fault. Knowing how to show responsibility to the defendant and increase the awareness of the courts is important.
It is often important to hire a forensic expert witness. He or she would gather information about the subject matter in the background while the lawyer lays the groundwork for the case. He or she will use observable testing methods that many scientists rely upon. Other expert data and information reviewed by the expert may garner additional results and a relevance to the claim. Additionally, the expert will provide testimony and answer questions in the deposition. Using testing methods, he or she will apply the results to the claim and answer questions to clear up confusion or to connect liability to the defendant.
The Necessary TasksWhen the expert witness is necessary, he or she may need to answer questions about the subject matter of the claim. To demonstrate that the defendant is at fault for the injury or death, the expert will need to connect the evidence or witness statements to this person or company. This is possible through following through with the evidence, answering questions that may clear up the matter and by using scientific methods of research and testing. This may provide the courtroom with the information of how the victim died or suffered injury. It could also answer the question of how the incident occurred or why. Using DNA, fingerprints, blood and other evidence, the expert may show the judge or jury the connection between the scene and the defendant.
Getting to Know the ExpertMany legal professionals that need an expert witness may not have a use for a forensic professional. However, a consultation with this person may provide the details to understand what a forensic expert would do for a case. The science behind the person may become most relevant for the claim when a person suffers injury. However, for wrongful death claims, the professional may provide a cause and approximate time of death. He or she may explain if the incident occurred due to intentional or accidental means and more data about DNA evidence along with fingerprint analysis. Getting to know the expert is almost as important as ensuring the testimony of the professional is admissible.
Testing and Observing the MethodsThe expert may test more carefully when a lawyer observes his or her scientific methods in action. However, it is important that the legal professional is aware of what the processes involve and how they produce the necessary results. It is crucial that all steps occur, and results are consistent. An observer may ensure all needed activity happens and if the expert misses something, the observer may give the professional details. The testing could also provide the lawyer with an understanding of how complex or difficult using science is for someone unfamiliar with the processes.
Reviewing Other WorksWhen working with an expert, the lawyer often needs to consult with and review other expert testimony and methods. The professional may even suggest this or make the contact and act as a point of reference. By reviewing and observing another scientist at work, the legal professional may understand better what the processes entail and that the expert hired is working within the means of his or her field of study. One method of working with DNA may differ only slightly from another, as a person that analyzes fingerprints may work similarly to another expert.
The Testing PhasesThe expert will often need to use independent testing either through a facility or with another expert to ensure the results are accurate and consistent. Retesting the evidence or process is often another step in keeping results accurate and in line with the opinions of the expert. This could prove that another approach or a different idea is part of the process. Keeping the rate of error within scientific means is also important for consistent results.
Working with the LawyerOnce the legal professional hires the expert and begins to work with him, the expert will need to explain various issues and matters to the lawyer. This is to ensure the team is working together and that the relationship becomes stronger. Knowing about the conclusion, opinions and testimony of the professional is important to remove surprises.
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.