What is an Expert Witness?

David Lindsey, Attorney at Law
Expert Witness

Expert Witness

Most people have heard the term “expert witness,” but it’s not until you’re in need of one do you truly understand an expert witness is more than just someone with experience in a given field. Just because a person considers him or herself an expert doesn’t mean the court will view it this way.

What is required to be an expert witness and what should you and your attorney look for if you’re in need of expert testimony?

There are federal and state laws governing who can testify as an expert. The court that tries your case determines which of the guidelines apply to your expert witnesses.

Federal Guidelines for Expert Witness Testimony

According to federal law, expert witnesses are people who possess education, experience, knowledge, skill, and training in a specialized field. These are fairly broad guidelines, but they do ensure anyone testifying as an expert witness will be an experienced professional in his or her field.

Federal rules require experts to base their testimony on facts and/or data considered the norm in their field. The goal is to help the jury better understand a complex situation. In a way, expert witnesses serve as filters by straining complex, technical information through their knowledge and experience and interpreting and explaining it in a way that helps someone without the same knowledge understand it.

What’s the Difference between a Federal Witness and a Federal Expert Witness?

Non-expert witnesses testify about what they saw or heard in regard to an alleged crime, whereas an expert doesn’t need to have seen or heard the alleged crime. They are giving objective general information related to the details of a given case.

The state rules regarding witnesses are similar to federal rules but vary slightly from state to state regarding the inadmissibility of testimony. To learn more about Colorado’s rules regarding expert witness testimony, check out this information provided by SEAK, a company that offers an expert witness training program.

Scientific Evidence

One of the most common issues that arise regarding expert testimony is related to scientific testimony.

In some cases, there is little to no dispute. Nobody questions evidence widely accepted as fact. Even a person of average intelligence with no specific experience would understand it. When evidence is factual, the judge can take judicial notice and accept the testimony of the expert as fact.

In other instances, scientific evidence is controversial. This means it’s up to the court to determine the appropriate testing method before allowing the expert witness’s testimony. Judges can ask if the evidence presented by the expert has been:

  • Subject to peer review
  • Tested and if so, via what method
  • Published, and the rate of error in the testing

They might also ask for information regarding the rate of error in testing.

Other states question the reliability of scientific evidence. These states require it to be acknowledged as fact by the scientific community. Furthermore, qualified expert witnesses conduct testing and provide proof that he or she followed the proper procedures.

Would an Expert Witness Help Your Case?

Expert witness testimony can strengthen your defense a great deal and help jurors better understand the details of your case. Expert witnesses are effective even if your case is settled outside of court.

If you’d like to know more about expert witness testimony or you believe working with an attorney who has access to a network of expert witnesses, contact David Lindsey to schedule a consultation.

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