How to Choose an Expert Witness

Hiring an expert witness is a tedious process but well worth the chagrin when it comes to a deposition that breaks the case, or credible trial testimony that impresses the jury.

There are some preliminary criteria that need to be satisfied. The expert must of course be qualified to testify about the subject matter at issue. For example, in the medical malpractice field, an expert testifying about the standard of care must specialize in the same field as the defendant and be board certified in the relevant field if the defendant is. The expert must also have devoted a majority of professional time in the year preceding the time complained of to practicing or teaching an accredited program in the same specialty as the defendant. MCL 600.2169(1)(a-b).

In order to determine whether the expert is a qualified expert, a curriculum vite is necessary. Furthermore, rather than taking the expert’s word for it, their qualifications can be confirmed and this probably a good idea. For example, if the expert asserts that they are certified by a particular board and it is a relevant board, the certification can be confirmed by contact with that board or with the American Medical Association or the American Board of Medical Specialties.

An expert who will positively impress the jury and the opposition is another important criteria. Therefore, not only is a qualified expert needed, but an expert who is prepared. The first indicator of this will be in the preparation the expert shows when they have their first conference to go over the proofs and discuss the facts and arguments. The expert’s level of preparation at this stage is a good indicator of how prepared they will be for their deposition in the matter. An expert who is well prepared is more convincing than one who has to muddle through paperwork to find answers. An expert who is detail oriented is a great expert because they will likely have the pertinent timeline committed to memory or at least handy as a reference. It is the attorney’s role to prepare the expert for the oppositions tactics and arguments, and it is the expert’s role to know their facts and material.

Another important factor is to have an expert whom you are certain will follow through with the case until the end and will be available when you need them. They also must be appropriately sociable. You do not want an expert who might flake out before you get to trial or at the last minute, and you do not want an expert who is going to be perceived as awkward to the jury. It is a precarious position to be requesting the opposition and judge permission to add another expert to the witness list at a late stage in the case, and likewise, impressing a jury can be a popularity contest. The more experience the witness has with deposition and trial testimony, the better witness he will make when it comes to your case.

A final rudimentary matter is costs, which need to be reasonable and simple. An expert who is piece-mealing their services and product is probably not worth the hassle. For example, an expert who has dual qualifications such as vocational rehabilitation and life care planning should probably just charge one fee for everything versus $500 for a vocational rehabilitation analysis and $500 for a life care plan. Dealing with one fee for services feels better than the piece-meal process.

An expert who is qualified, prepared, experienced, and on your side to the end is going to be the best witness for your case and will make the tedious process well worth the chagrin of it all.

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