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How to Become an Expert Witness - Part 1: Expert Witness and Forensics Defined

Miami CSI and other TV crime solving shows captivate viewer attention with the glamour, excitement, and challenge of forensic police activity. We watch as the prosecutor insists on hard, incriminating evidence that will withstand court scrutiny to put the bad guys behind bars. If you are considering a forensic career, this five-part series will explain the role of the expert witness and describe how you can qualify as an expert.

The field of forensics is actually an important specialty within many professions today. Simply put, “forensics” refers to the investigative task of documenting what went wrong and why. Forensic engineers, forensic accountants, forensic psychologists, and forensic toxicologists all evaluate how disputed issues in a lawsuit, from financial fraud to product liability or construction failure, deviated from reasonable and customary industry norms.

The use of an expert witness in court is governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence. Specifically, Rule 702, Testimony by Experts, reads as follows:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

Experts can be classified as “consulting” or “testifying” experts. As the name implies, a testifying expert is identified to the courts as one who will provide a formal expert report, be available for deposition, and who may give testimony in court. The “work product” of the testifying expert is subject to discovery and disclosure. A consulting expert, on the other hand, serves as a private consultant to the attorney without the need for public identification.

Rule 26 under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures address disclosure requirements in regard to the use of an expert. When serving as an expert, you will be expected to provide the following: a detailed CV stating all of your qualifications; a list of all publications authored in the previous 10 years; identification of all other cases in which you served as an expert at trial or by deposition during the previous 4 years; and compensation rates for your work in the current matter.

The judge determines who is qualified to serve as an expert witness, although the qualifications of any expert can and frequently will be challenged by opposing counsel. In a “Daubert” challenge, the judge must evaluate the expert’s specialized knowledge in regard to four tests of acceptability.

By Legal Expert Connections, Inc.
Legal Marketing, Expert Marketing, Attorney Marketing, Lawyer Marketing
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret Grisdela
Margaret Grisdela is President of Legal Expert Connections, Inc., a national marketing agency specializing in business development for legal and litigation support experts. She is the author “Courting Your Clients: The Essential Guide to Legal Marketing.”

Copyright Legal Expert Connections, Inc.

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.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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