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Ethical Challenges for Expert Witnesses in Civil Litigation

Expert witnesses confront various ethical challenges when progressing through civil litigation no matter if the case is simple or has complex parts and processes to include presenting testimony and using procedures for testing. Success in these ethical challenges can ensure the professional is aware of how to navigate morals and expected mores of the city where the case occurs.

Interpreting Evidence

One of the important jobs that each expert witness has is to interpret evidence in an unbiased and objective manner. This requires keeping evaluations balanced and not to skew results in anyone’s favor. The professional may become tempted to help the lawyer because it could increase the chances of success, but this ethical dilemma usually can keep the professional focused on the claim or case. Science matters also require strict objectivity and can produce results that conflict with the legal argument. The expert should interpret evidence in a way that remains objective, but he or she can still help the lawyer based on the

Sticking to Facts

The expert’s ethical challenge in many claims with civil litigation is to stick to the facts only. The opinions the expert provides in testimony or a report should also
remain based on these facts. Any deviation from this can lead to a Daubert challenge or an objection to the expert’s involvement. The facts are in the evidence or through proof that may remain confusing without clarification. The professional hired to remove confusion should do so with the factual evidence and provide details in opinions that have a clear foundation of the accurate data.

Explain and not Persuade

While the expert witness should remain objective, he or she should also try to only explain details and give opinions based on fact without trying to persuade anyone to a certain way of thinking. Explaining the details in a reconstruction of an accident can help clear confusion and assist with informing the courtroom of certain sequences of events. However, the lawyer usually has the task of persuading based on these details, and the expert witness should steer clear of helping the lawyer accomplish this task. It is possible to assist the lawyer and still remain ethically sound.

Favorable Testimony

Some expert witnesses can provide favorable testimony that matches the lawyer’s argument. This is possible when the evidence does appear to collaborate the story the plaintiff or defendant provides to the courtroom. Additionally, the expert witness can give opinions that remain based on fact and known details and still explain it so it appears to coincide with the lawyer’s argument for or against the subject matter. Favorable testimony can also occur through a report that presents similar aspects to the case. There are other technical facts and situations that can have different interpretations which could become favorable to the lawyer as well.

Professional Conduct

The expert witness is still bound to professional conduct that includes ethical boundaries when working as a professional in a case. This code of ethics applies to presenting evidence and the specific subject that the person has experience or education in and that applies to the case. Many professions have different or similar rules that apply, but the expert witness must remain in line with these ethical and moral guidelines. A challenge to these ethics can occur if the professional becomes emotional about a case but the evidence is in contradiction to this state.

Opinions and Factual Details

The expert witness may suffer an ethical dilemma when providing opinions about the facts of the case or the specific subject material. This can lead to arguments, objections or even a challenge against the expert if he or she does not base such opinions on the factual details presented in the case. Other challenges to ethics can occur if the expert suffers limitations when presenting testimony or a report about the case. Various other issues can occur if the professional has knowledge that can cause a conflict of interest such as how the opposing lawyer works or details about the opposing legal case. Factual details and certain material can lead to disqualification if the expert opposes the ethical challenge.

The Expert’s Challenges

The professional hired for the case will encounter various challenges that can work against his or her moral code, or the expert may have ethical challenges when working for certain legal professionals. It is important to protect the integrity of the case and remain an expert witness that follows federal and state guidelines as a professional.

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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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