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Guidelines for Expert Witness Testimony

Expert witnesses hired for a court case where they must provide testimony usually have very stringent guidelines in place that require certain protocols and processes that affect opinions provided and processes that the professional must follow. Within these guidelines, the expert witness can present a case and remove confusion about evidence.

The Integrity of the Process

The expert witness process is a product of decades of refinement and integrity through evolution with numerous different professionals working with lawyers over time. The United States expert witness testimony procedures require honesty, unbiased opinions about evidence, responsibility and integrity with all professionals taking part in a court case. The primary motivation to provide testimony about evidence in the case for the country regarding expert witnesses is to clarify something confusing. This could lead to either side of a lawsuit using an expert witness, either party in a criminal case and federal cases where the courts hire an expert to give testimony.

Technical Concepts and Standards of Care

With providing testimony about something confusing, many experts will present a case or opinions about something
they have experience with that can remove confusion about technical aspects and concepts that the average judge or jury panel member will not understand without the expert. Depending on the subject matter, the case may proceed with very specific experts in numerous fields that are necessary to remove confusion, clarify details and help the courtroom to understand the information given. One guideline governs the standards of care for professionals and how this is important for several lawsuits and criminal cases of injury or death.

Knowledge of the Subject Matter

For an expert witness to have relevance in the case or claim, he or she must have knowledge of the subject matter. This usually requires a professional that has a background, degree or certification in the field of study. For medical matters, a doctor or nurse is often sufficient. However, for injuries during surgery, this could also include an anesthesiologist, nurse or surgeon. When the matter requires specialized knowledge such as calculations of math-based problems, the knowledge of the subject matter may extend to anyone with that understanding that could also have a degree or certification in a different background.

Based on Facts

An expert witness usually must provide testimony in the courtroom through fact-based opinions. His or her presented testimony to the judge or jury must remain relevant to the facts and rely heavily on the factual details. Evidence can support the opinions of the professional, but the information provided to the courtroom requires a connection to the relevant subject matter, reliable testing methods and factual concepts. Even when clearing up confusion or removing doubt about something specific, the expert witness must ensure his or her opinions remain rooted in facts. This guideline is generally true unless the subject matter has no true facts but requires a point of perspective.

Qualifications and Credentials

One guideline in providing an expert witness experience for the case is to provide qualifications and credentials to the opposing lawyer and judge. These are part of the interview process and necessary before testimony will become admissible. The qualifications must remain relevant to the subject matter with knowledge of the materials for giving opinions about the case in testimony. Credentials must have valid backing through peer review, an accredited college or certificates with a course that is appropriate to the field of study. Before the professional can take his or her place in the courtroom and present testimony, this interview must have some success.

Ethics in Testifying

When taking part in the court case, the expert must have certain guidelines in place for testimony, opinions and when presenting details. His or her facts with the subject materials must have a basis of truth, remain impartial and not have any bias to one side or the other. There is a need to provide all necessary and relevant information even if not in favor of the legal team’s client. Testimony usually must reflect scientific evidence, the already accepted practice standards for the professional in the current era and remain based on some foundation of science. It is important to refrain from presenting inconsistent details through multiple cases and keeping within the same field of study.

Presenting the testimony to the courtroom may require a better clarification of the details through less scientific words. The
expert will need to ensure that the judge or jury can fully comprehend the opinions given and how they relate to the evidence or incident.

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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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