What Qualifications Must a Qualified Expert Witness Possess?
Expert witnesses are becoming more and more common in legal matters. They are a specific kind of witness and can add significant benefits to a case by bringing the issues into focus and ensuring that the lawyers better understand those issues. Experts can provide testimony on a wide range of topics. However, they can also significantly increase the costs of litigation.
Most other types of witnesses provide firsthand testimony regarding a legal matter, but expert witnesses testify in a court to give some form of important or factual information based upon their own unique and specialized knowledge. Although their qualifications can come from a broad range of sources, expert witnesses need to be qualified to provide specific information or facts.
Two Categories of Expert Witness Requirements
The requirements involved with being an expert witness can be broken down into two categories:
- Legal requirements for being an expert witness
- Practical requirements for being an expert witness
The Requirements of Being an Expert Witness
The legal requirements are relatively limited for expert witnesses. They answer to a comprehensive standard the includes knowledge, experience, training, education, or skill. For their information to be relevant, expert witnesses must:
- Practice in a profession related to the matter of the case
- Be skilled in that particular profession
- Have specialized knowledge
Experts are considered qualified if (and only if) their professional knowledge and skill sets will help the jury better understand the evidence. An expert’s knowledge level must be above and beyond the knowledge level of the jury. Expert witnesses do not necessarily have to be the very best in their fields. They also are not required to have all of the facts regarding the case, as long as their expertise is relevant. These requirements help the court understand the evidence or determine the facts in an issue. Under this standard, most adults could likely be qualified as an expert witness on some topic.
The testimony of expert witnesses need to be based on having:
- Adequate data and factual information
- Accepted principles and methods commonly used in their field of expertise
- Appropriate application of those principles and methods
Expert witness testimonies are relevant if they use clear-cut data and follow the accepted standard of practice in their field of expertise. Moreover, experts must be able to add value to the lawsuit. Expert testimonies must provide a credible opinion to help reach a conclusion and include relevant scientific connections about evidence. Experts need to provide information that is new and not apparent to the jury, making sure that there is no gap in their analysis or reasoning.
Lastly, the opinions of experts opinion need to be based on foundational facts which are agreed upon by other specialists in the same field. The conclusion an expert comes to must be accurate and pertinent to the matter of the suit.
To find out more about expert witnesses and their required qualifications, talk to an attorney. Many legal professionals offer free or low-cost consultations so you will want to schedule a time to speak to a lawyer right away.