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Expert Witnesses

Voir Dire of Expert Witnesses

Qualifying an expert witness for a case is crucial in keeping his or her testimony admissible. This means going through several processes so that the professional may be considered an expert witness, and the initial questioning before the judge is successful.

Voir dire is the qualifying of an expert witness through his or her credentials, reliability and relevance to the case. This means that he or she is able to pass a Daubert challenge if necessary, succeed through questioning about credentials, qualifications and the subject matter and has an adequate scientific background. This usually means that his or her education is sufficient for the courtroom. Experience in the field of study is usually a requirement along with tried and tested methods of determining various aspects of evidence and connecting these to the case in some manner. When the expert has been considered part of the claim, his or her testimony may be admissible.

Because lawyers that hire expert witnesses may only complete a cursory review of qualifications, it is possible to surprise them with the fact that the expert may not have the correct
credentials or is a scam artist. This means they are not capable of passing the judgment of a judge through questions about qualifications and other information. The background test in this manner fails due to inconsistencies or incomplete education. Some professionals are unable to use standard methods of testing and connecting evidence to the case. This leads to the Daubert Challenge failing. The individual may then only be used as an advisor, but his or her testimony is stricken from the case.

The Function and Need for an Expert Witness

The existence and need for expert witnesses were created and perpetuated through the legal system and by legal professionals. The Rules of Evidence that govern these professionals took time and effort to establish. These explain that a qualified professional may give an opinion to assist the court in understanding evidence or to establish certain facts for the claim or case. Even if a state does not have the Federal Rules of Evidence, there are similar rules in place in most locations throughout the United States. The expert is to perform two primary duties. The scientific aspect is to collect, test and analyze evidence so that he or she is able to form an opinion. Then, there is the forensic aspect where he or she is to provide testimony to the judge or jury panel with his or her findings. This is usually in some form of written report, but many tests and standard methods are used to come to a conclusion based on facts.

For an expert’s testimony to be admissible, he or she must provide this with a basis in facts and must be qualified as an expert for the case. These professionals give opinion through factual information or data that has been seen, heard or experienced by the expert. The data could have been communicated before the hearing as well. These facts or details do not require admissibility in the case if they are relied upon for the field of study. If any of these methods are questioned, the opposing counsel may bring forth a Daubert Challenge to determine if the testimony is reliable and relevant to the subject matter.

Other Needs for an Expert Witness

For some situations, an expert witness may be needed such as an order for a request based on certain matters in the courts. These may be court appointed professionals, and may be hired even if the parties do not agree to the use of one. The expert witness is then informed of what duties he or she has based on the case, that he or she may be providing testimony, could be cross examined by the other lawyer and is paid directly through the court or as the court requires. Whether the jury panel is explained that an expert witness has been appointed by the court is up to the judge. However, other experts may be called in addition to this person.

To be qualified, the expert must have provided testimony that has been classified as reliable, relevant and the scientific methods used may be tested. He or she should have been subjected to peer review and publication in most circumstances as well as knowing the rate of error in the procedures used with or on the evidence in the case. With these in place, he or she may pass the Daubert Challenge if one is issued.

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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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