Expert Witnesses are a necessary part of the legal profession. In certain cases, such as medical malpractice, experts are an absolute necessity. In other cases they are sometimes a luxury. The use of experts by defense attorneys seems to be on the rise, and so Plaintiff’s attorneys feel pressured to respond in kind. What some attorneys fail to consider, however, is that the expert they hire will play a HUGE part in whether they are successful.
Because of the increased use of experts referenced above, more and more individuals are looking to get into the expert witness game. A fancy website, a polished resume, and paying to be put on an expert witness list on a few websites is all that is required for someone to appear to be a reputable expert. But that doesn’t mean they will serve your needs in court.
A good expert, especially when hired early, can help you frame your initial complaint and discovery demands, focus your depositions on areas that really matter, and testify in court in a knowledgeable, convincing fashion that will sway the jury to see the evidence in the manner you would like. A bad expert is a waste of money ($5, $10, even $15,000.00 or more) who can totally turn a jury off if he either doesn’t know what he is doing on the witness stand or appears less than 100% honest.
Because of the money involved in the expert witness business, there are plenty of agencies out there working as front men for experts. It is possible to find a good expert from one of these groups, but you really need to do your homework, speak with the expert, and make sure they have the qualifications you need. Stay away from experts who tend to work only for Plaintiffs or only for defendants, as that will negatively affect their credibility.
One great place to find experts is academia. College professors with hands on experience working in the field of your need make wonderful witnesses, as they are used to teaching difficult concepts to people (students) who don’t understand the area. They also have little or no history of testifying, which enhances their credibility in front of a jury. They will certainly need more preparation in how to testify effectively than a professional expert, but the potential dividends are well worth the effort.
The next time you are in need of an expert witness, consider checking at your local college or university. You may find exactly what you are looking for at a fraction of the cost!
Thanks for reading,
Adam M. Gee, Esq.
New York and Pennsylvania Personal Injury and Malpractice Attorney
Ziff, Weiermiller, Hayden & Mustico, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY 14901