What does it take to be an expert witness?

On television, it might seem that an expert witness can appear at any time to testify in any situation but in real life, it takes experience and preparation. Before agreeing, be sure you understand the rules and expectations.

Federal Rule 702 defines Expert Witness 

You can’t just walk off the street, even as a professional, and testify. The federal government defines expert testimony in Rule 702 as, “A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education if” the following is applicable:

  • The scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will make it easier to understand the evidence or determine a fact in the case. For example, a medical examiner explains injuries of a victim that were used to determine the cause of death.
  • Testimony is based on facts or data and is the product of reliable principles and methods.
  • The expert applies their knowledge and principles to the facts of the case.

The short version is that Rule 702 makes it so that an expert is truly an expert who understands and can explain evidence and facts of the case.

Requirements

In addition to meeting the Rule 702 definition, expert witnesses also have requirements which they must meet including a demand for your area of expertise. If there’s no demand for expert pet groomers, for example, then your time is wasted marketing yourself as such.

  • Punctuality – Similar to court reporters, experts need to be punctual not only to proceedings but in the time they spend reviewing reports and preparing for a case.
  • Competitive nature – In complicated, and some less complicated, cases, experts may be pitted against each other by attorneys from each side. You’ve got to have a competitive nature to save face and provide what is needed for the case.
  • Clean background – If you’re an expert medical doctor but have a pending malpractice case, you’re not qualified to be an expert. You’ve got to have a clean record.
  • Flexible schedule – You never know when you may be called to provide a deposition so it helps to have a schedule that can allow for such opportunities.
  • Communication skills – It helps to be a people person and someone who can explain technical terms in laymen’s terms. It plays well with a jury.
  • Organization – A disorganized expert, however much experience, doesn’t play well with a jury. You’ve got to be familiar with the evidence of the case so you can provide answers succinctly and intelligently.

Deciding to be an expert witness shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your testimony could make the difference in the case. For the most serious of cases, it’s life and death. 

If you’re seeking an expert witness or court reporter for an upcoming Sacramento area case, we’d like to help! Contact us today.

Sources:

Cornell School of Law Federal Rule 702

Expert Witness Requirements

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