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Communicating Successfully with Expert Witnesses

Communication is the key to all successful relationships, and this is best seen with business and legal contacts. Court cases move fast in certain situations, and greater chances of a positive outcome of the case often rests on how best communication is achieved between all parties involved.

Expert witnesses are used to increase the odds of winning a claim, and if these professionals are not up to date with the newest information, it is possible these experts may not be aware of what details to explain. It is vital that the lawyer and client provide these expert professionals what they need to construct or reconstruct data and statistics about the incident.

Because the testimony of an expert witness may be what is needed to make the case, they must be presented the most up to date and relevant details about the accident or incident so that another expert’s testimony does not break the case. Communication from the very beginning letters to the trial and in reconstructing the events of an accident is essential. There are some tips that may prove more beneficial in keeping contact with these professionals as progressive as possible. Both the
lawyer and the client should be aware of any helpful techniques in maintaining a useful relationship with an expert witness.

Retainer Agreement

When a lawyer has need to hire an expert witness, he or she may feel the need to draft a retainer agreement to ensure there is a clear indication of what is expected in the relationship. All important clauses and terms should be specified with clear and concise provisions within. This retainer agreement explains to both parties what obligations are contained within the contract, and it is used to mitigate possible conflict or disagreements in the future. Everything that the expert witness is to perform is clearly outlined so that he or she understands what he or she must provide as services to fulfill the agreement. This may include testimony at a deposition, trial or if his or her needed assistance is only as a consultant.

The retainer agreement should have provisions of what materials, books, tools and other items are needed so that the expert may perform his or her job. With all details clearly defined as to what is expected of both the lawyer and the expert witness, there should be no misunderstandings or problems arising from either party. Fees owed to the professional should also be broken down. This means that the method of payment in hourly or flat rates, how much and a breakdown of what activity incurs which charge should be included as well as expenses. This is beneficial to both the lawyer and the expert and there is no confusion in this matter. This is important during cross examination, as the opposing counsel inquires about this and services for the lawyer he or she provides. With a retainer agreement, everything appears professional and valid.

Possible Conflicts or Disqualification with Cases

Some experts are disqualified from participating in certain cases, others have conflicts that arise through certain actions or activity when involved with some lawyers. These matters should be discussed thoroughly and understood before the opposing counsel brings up these possible problems. The judge must be informed if the expert witness is not qualified for the subject matter or the relevant case material. This could lead to the professional being relegated to a consultant and assisting in discovering a better candidate for testimony. In some situations, the disqualification or conflict occurred due to science being too new or being controversial.

Some disqualifications from being an expert witness occur due to a conflict of interest. If the expert was employed by the opposing counsel or was the client of his or hers, he or she may not be the best to provide testimony. There are certain allowances for these situations, but the expert must pass two parts of a test through a reasonable employ by the other party and confidential information being provided to the professional. This information must be discussed before he or she is taken on for the case.

The Expert Witness

Professionals with subject matter experience and knowledge are used in cases as a source of increasing the chances of success. It is important that they are communicated with regularly and often. As cases change constantly, so the client and lawyer should be in continual contact providing all necessary details. Email, internet access, phone contact and other media forms should be utilized to ensure the expert witness is up to date with all relevant matters.

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Disclaimer: 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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