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How to Effectively Question an Expert Witness

When an expert witness has been obtained for a trial or case, he or she is questioned about his or her expertise. This knowledge of the relevant material is often invaluable to the case involved with the witness.

This process usually starts with the hiring lawyer and ends with a cross-examination with questions that may appear to attack the expert. While these inquiries into the skills and experience of the professional may seem intrusive, they are usually only asked to ensure the person has the necessary understanding of the field so that he or she may provide insight into the details needed for the judge or jury in determining the guilt or innocence of the defending party.

Obtaining the Results Needed from the Expert Witness

When questioning the expert, it is best to ensure the answers received are for the specific material needed. This may mean focusing on certain facts, details or situations. When only one aspect of the claim is highlighted and agreed upon by both witness and lawyer, it is best to ensure the primary understanding of the information in
on the component needed for compensation. This may mean having the expert detail how the severity of injury causes such an effect on the victim that he or she is not capable of certain activities. This works best for medical witnesses.

When focusing on the questions about the issue necessary for the case, this may skip over the other aspects. However, many claims for compensation only require the knowledge about certain events or circumstances. For a car accident expert witness, this may be for factors involving how the car crashed into another vehicle from a defect in automotive materials. This may also be observed by a medical expert informing the jury panel or judge how the defending party was responsible for the injuries of the victim based on certain particulars with wounds and blood tests. By asking only the questions necessary for the case, this ensures there is little time wasted on unneeded material. Because the professional was not present at the accident or during the injury, he or she does not know with exact detail how or why the incident occurred. Other expert witnesses may be used to provide these circumstances.

Explaining and Understanding the Expert’s Specialty

Because there are certain stipulations that provide for an expert witness’s testimony to be excluded, it is important that the specialty is understood and that the professional’s field is explained well enough that he or she may become part of the proceedings. This could be through a degree in the subject matter, extensive research that lead to publications or documented surveys or with field experience and observations. When being questioned, the expert witness must have enough understanding of his or her own specialty that he or she is capable of explaining the details to a judge and both legal counsels asking the questions. If a jury panel is included, they may determine if the person is considered an expert in the field and his or her testimony may be admissible and applied to the case.

If the field of scope is considered to lack merit, the testimony may be excluded. If this occurs, the expert may become a consultant to the lawyer and assist in hiring another expert witness who is determined to be included in the proceedings. It is important to ensure the subject matter and professional are separated in the minds of those involved so that when an new expert is hired that he or she is not discredited based solely on the field of expertise. The issue at hand must deal with the details and evidence provided about the particular specialty and not exclude specific persons only because they study or provide testimony about it.

Qualifications of an Expert Witness

When the hired professional is questioned, the hiring lawyer usually establishes his or her credentials and qualifications in the subject matter that is relevant to the case or claim. The opposing counsel may attempt to discredit this expert’s qualifications in various manners. When questioning the witness, it is important to ensure he or she is capable of providing these qualifications in a consistent matter no matter who is asking about them. During this process, it may be important to ask the expert if there is a better qualified person and if so why he or she would be better suited for providing testimony. This may lead to another person being hired, but it may also explain to the opposing lawyer that he or she is better qualified and should be included based on certain factors.

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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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