Forensic, General & Medical
Expert Witnesses

The Relationship between Lawyer and Expert Witness - Ethical Considerations


The lawyer and expert witness must maintain a professional relationship as they are employer and employee while attempting to build a strong working relationship for the case. By keeping the work-related matters ethical, both must push aside other personal issues so that ethical concerns do not harm the client.

When an expert is hired for a litigation suit, there are various ethical concerns that affect every stage and level of the case. It is important not to compromise the confidentiality of the client before the expert has been hired by the lawyer. Unless granted consent, the lawyer must not provide any details about the case to the expert above what is necessary to hire him or her. Trade secrets in intellectual property cases supply the expert with the needed details. However, preserving methods in scientific breakthroughs or in medical processes is necessary for injury cases and medical malpractice claims.

Case Material Review

Confidential matters and information should be thought out and considered carefully before revealing any new details. Privacy rights are of concern when supplying an expert witness with more than necessary. It is imperative the lawyer limit what is said based on these issues. However, the professional hired must have enough data to create an opinion or report about the incident and injury. He or she must then determine what occurred and how the defendant is responsible or liable for damages and compensation. Without some of the confidential information, it is usually not possible to continue and progress through the case.

Inclusion of Details in the Case

Another ethical concern is whether the lawyer and expert should disclose the possibility that the claim could contain opposing information. In a certain situation, it is possible that the defendant was only at the scene and did not cause any injury. Sometimes, the harm cannot be proven as the result of the actions the defendant completed. The inclusion of these details does not always occur. The concern regarding ethics may affect the outcome and the relationship with the client. Sometimes the judge or jury is convinced by his or her testimony rather than what presented details come from the expert.

Other Ethical Considerations

When a lawyer and expert are working together, it is imperative that no personal relationships affect these situations. A romantic engagement could alter the case, lead to problems and conflict may arise if there is a rift between the two parties. This often affects the client negatively even if both are amicable in the relationship. This may also cause a conflict of interest for the expert. His or her hire should not happen based on these factors. This is usually unethical behavior by the lawyer. It is crucial that both are able to maintain a business working association. However, keeping the relations strong may increase efficiency.

Other ethical concerns may entail communication with the client. Some experts are detached from the plaintiff and may only provide information to the lawyer that is passed on to the client. However, others work intimately with the client such as psychologists and social workers. If there is a child involved, experts may become involved in helping him or her through a trauma. Some experts must assess the situation by examining the individual in the case. Behavioral or psychological issues are present that need addressing in the courtroom. Some experts must examine the defendant. Any information shared to the client in these situations is often a breach of ethical standards.

Ethical Concerns with Testimony

The expert hired for the case should not reveal any confidential information in his or her report or to the court. This is a breach and could cause several complications. One expert should also refrain from sharing anything with another expert that is not permissible. These details could lead to a review or consequences in the claim if used against the client. Professionals that communicate in this manner may cause problems and the details are often applicable in favor of the defendant. The lawyer of the case should refrain from assisting the expert in any reports needed for the claim. It is the expert witness that creates these and then provides them for the judge and lawyers.

Testimony should remain free of ethical concerns. The expert is hired to provide assistance, clear up confusion and assess evidence. If he or she engages in relations that are questionable, he or she could lose credibility and become disqualified in the case. Then, testimony is inadmissible.


Provided by HG.org


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.

Find an Expert Witness