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Voir Dire of an Expert Witness

Qualifying an expert witness for a case is normally a complex matter that may require understanding the subject matter, the reliability of testing methods and the credentials the professional possesses. However, the voir dire of an expert witness for any case or claim generally is a preliminary step where later objections do not initially arise.

What is the Voir Dire Process?

The voir dire generally is necessary for the jury trials a client will go through. The person facing this process will undergo various questions and submit his or her qualifications. This may also require a report by the expert witness if needed for the case. While the more extensive questions about the case are not necessary during this process, the professional will generally give an accounting of his or her background, connection to the subject matter and what his or her qualifications are pertaining to the field of study. The expert witness may have an opportunity to ask witnesses questions for qualifications, details about the person or jury members similar
questions for the lawyer.

The Lawyer in Voir Dire

When a lawyer asks the expert witness questions during the voir dire process, he or she usually
keeps the inquiry on the basis of a review of qualifications and to verify the data and facts about the conclusions the professional will base his or her testimony on within the case. Other perfunctory questions will connect to educational backgrounds, publications and peer review for testing methods and reliability of tests and results. These will most often explain to the opposing legal team and judge if the expert witness may remain as a designated expert witness for the case or face disqualification in the initial procedure.

Reliability of Testing Methods

When an expert witness is part of the legal proceedings, he or she normally tests evidence to determine certain facts, find new evidence, understand something confusing or to base opinions about the conclusions. When he or she must test the evidence with personal methods, these processes require reliable outcomes through verifiable and confirmed results. The error rate usually must remain the same as in scientific methods of no more than five percent, or the testing may fail to garner the necessary results needed to explain certain conclusions. It is important for reliance on the testing procedure that the error rate remains relatively the same.

Reliability in the testing methods is paramount in basing opinions on facts derived from the results of these tests. In order to explain the matter further or to base a report and conclusion about the incident, the professional must have reliability in his or her methods and procedures. The courts will need reliability as well to hold what the expert witness says as truth. So that the professional does not face a Daubert challenge or lose one, he or she must retain and keep reliability throughout all processes for the same and similar cases.

The Expert Witness in the Voir Dire Process

The professional usually must sell his or her relevance and reliability in the courtroom through qualifications, testing methods and testimony. Creating a report for the case is sometimes necessary, and these reports may provide the opposing legal counsel and the judge with the information to keep him or her on the case. Others are unable to support their own credentials and will face disqualification when they cannot explain their own knowledge of the subject matter sufficiently. The initial point is crucial to pass, and the expert may have the opportunity to cut off any future challenges when successful in the voir dire process.

The important issue with voir dire is that the expert may have a significant advantage in knowing the subject matter much greater than the judge or opposing legal team. In these situations, the inquiries are often simple and limited to what the judge or lawyer does know. Then, the expert may only need to sell his or her qualifications successfully to remain a designated expert witness.

Remaining on the Case

After explaining testing and possible testimony or a report for the case, the expert witness may have the opportunity to stay on the case unless he or she causes concern that could lead to a Daubert challenge against relevance or reliability. Before that challenge initiates, the expert should work hard to explain the subject matter and provide testimony or results from tests that are in line with what the case requires. Remaining consistent with testimony and answers is equally important.

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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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