How to Choose the Right Expert Court Witness

By: Chris Robertson

For court matters involving real estate, business partnerships, Board of Directors, wrongful terminations, minority shareholder rights, and other related subjects, finding the right expert court witness for the job is not always a simple process. There are many factors to consider. Here are some quick tips to narrow your search for a dependable court witness in these fields.

The Right Qualifications

The term "expert" is crucial. Find a court witness with a solid background in the areas needed for the case. A qualified witness will usually be able to bring clear, concise information to the case. Check the witness' background as an expert to be sure he is qualified in the field. This will also help you discover his or her strengths and weaknesses, and to avoid major surprises at the last minute. For instance, both sides may have contacted the same court witness. Or, the expert may have already taken a view in a previous similar case, which may be unhelpful in your client's case.

Also, ask to be sure the witness will accept instructions from both defendants and claimants. Many courts do not favor one-sided experts, and will choose one with a reputation of being even-handed.

If the other side chooses their own expert court witness, be sure your expert has similar qualifications so theirs doesn't appear to be "more qualified" than yours.

Get Clients Involved

Allow your clients to meet the potential court witness before making a choice. Although the client will usually not be directly involved in the final decision, he or she may still want to give input.

Choosing a Court Witness for Complex Cases

With complex cases, be sure the court witness you are considering is willing to work closely with your team. Keep him informed of every development in the case, and involve him in important decisions that would benefit from his opinion. But even during a complex case, please do respect his privacy and independence.

Choosing the Same Court Witness Again

If you need to hire the same expert court witness you've used before, do another check on credentials. He could have even more beneficial credentials than before. Ask your colleagues or counsel if anything has changed (for better or worse) in the expert's background.

Writing Skills

As courts move more toward the "written report" than experts actually taking the witness stand, you'll need to be sure your expert has the correct skills to write a comprehensive report.

Bias and Conflict of Interest

Before hiring an expert court witness, be sure that he does not have a conflict of interest or any potential reasons to be biased in the case (past or present). Even if the expert is not biased, there may be things in his past that the other side could point out and weaken his influence and evidence in the eyes of the court.

Most importantly, make sure the expert has a history of being balanced in every case. The expert court witness in your case will be one of the major players, and could make the difference between winning and losing. Use the tips above to make an informed choice.

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