What is an Expert Witness?
An expert witness is someone who has a particular skill set, knowledge, and proficiency in a specific field that allows them to testify at a deposition or in a court of law. Their opinions are held in high regard and in many cases can help bolster the argument of the plaintiff or defense.
There are many different types of expert witnesses, some of which include:
Economic Expert Witness
The job of an economic expert witness is to assess and calculate economic damages both past and future. They can also:
- Evaluate business income.
- Assess and analyze the opposing economist’s opinions and testimony.
- Recommend strategies for depositions and cross-examinations.
- Provide expert witness testimony in a deposition or court.
Forensic economists are also responsible for taking highly complex financial issues and breaking them down into terms and concepts that the average person can easily understand. They are an invaluable asset to both plaintiffs and defense in matters that require economic litigation support and damage assessments.
Medical Expert Witness
A medical expert witness is usually a doctor, nurse, or other highly trained professional with a medical degree. The vast majority of cases they testify in deal with personal injury or medical malpractice.
A medical expert witness can help a jury understand the pain and suffering a person is going through or provide an opinion as to whether or not the plaintiff will ever recover. They can also testify in homicide cases where it’s important to understand the medical facts surrounding the death of an individual.
Forensic Psychologist Expert Witness
A forensic psychologist is a subset of an expert medical witness. They are typically a licensed and trained psychologist who has experience applying psychological knowledge to legal matters.
For example, a forensic psychologist can help determine if a car accident victim has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or mental health issues. There are many different kinds of forensic psychologists who work in such specialized fields as:
- Elder abuse
- Worker’s compensation
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) evaluations
- Military mental trauma (PTSD)
Forensic psychologists can also help with jury selection, preparing witnesses, and risk-appraisals. In cases where severe bodily injury has occurred, such as head trauma, a forensic psychologist can provide an expert opinion on the current and future psychological state of the injured party.
Financial Expert Witness
Forensic accountants look at the finances of a person or business to determine the flow of money. For example, they can be brought in to testify in a tax case, or a divorce case where one spouse suspects their ex-partner of hiding money.
They can also assist the probate court in determining the actual value of such property as stamp collections, jewelry, art, and even antiques. A forensic accountant is different from a forensic economist in that the accountant does not carry the requisite base of economic theory to opine on matters that pertain to earnings capacity or present value, for example.
Property Management Expert Witness
A property management expert witness will have years or decades of experience in managing properties. They can help with such cases as:
- Slip, trip, and fall
- Standard of care
- Fire safety
- Premises liability
Property management expert witnesses are also important in cases that involve hazardous living conditions such as multi-family units that contain mold, lead, asbestos, or fire safety issues.
Fair Housing Expert Witness
An expert on the various state and federal laws that govern fair housing. These laws help protect all persons from unlawful discrimination when it comes time to rent or buy a house or property. They have enough experience to intelligently determine when someone is being discriminated against.
HOA Expert Witness
A homeowner’s association expert witness helps plaintiff and defense attorneys with their expert opinions on the bylaws that govern an HOA. Disputes will often arise between homeowners and HOA board members and can wind up in mediation or court. In addition to understanding and being able to explain complex bylaws and covenants, HOA expert witnesses can also provide insights into:
- Home repairs
- Tree issues (line of sight)
- Plant damage assessments
- Tree appraisals
- Boundary and border line disputes
Construction Expert Witnesses
The owners of a building might opt to convert it at some point in time. For example, if the building currently houses multi-family condos, they can be converted into multi-family apartment units.
Sometimes, something will go wrong during the construction, and a dispute will arise between the owners and a third party.
A construction expert witness can help shed light on the construction techniques used in the apartment conversion and explain precisely why something went wrong. They also can take complex construction concepts and simplify them so that a layperson can easily understand.
Engineering Expert Witness
Engineering expert witnesses often work hand-in-hand with construction expert witnesses. They look at the various engineering forces that apply to buildings, houses, and multi-family residences.
They can also determine what caused the structural failure of a building or any number of construction-related engineering issues that might give way to a disagreement or lawsuit.
Real Estate Broker Expert Witness
A real estate broker expert witness provides testimony and advice on issues that pertain to the fiduciary duty, ethics, and liability of a real estate broker. Since real estate can be very complicated, these experts offer in-depth reports concerning real estate broker disclosure requirements and brokerage compliance issues.
Real estate brokers are tasked with finding, introducing, and arranging real estate transactions from buyers and sellers. Sometimes issues will arise, such as broker malpractice or contractual disputes. A real estate broker expert witness is invaluable in helping decipher the complex laws and rules that govern brokers and brokerages.
HR Expert Witness
An HR witness is an employment expert in matters that pertain to all aspects of Human Resources (HR). This can include hiring, firing, company policy, and state/federal laws. HR expert witnesses usually also have knowledge of complex regulations and labor laws, compliance, and employee assessment.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Expert Witness
The ADA prohibits discrimination against Americans with disabilities. It’s part of their civil rights and ensures that individuals who are disabled are treated fairly and given the same reasonable opportunities as non-disabled people. ADA expert witnesses have an innate knowledge of the complex ADA codes and requirements that businesses are required to abide by.
Mental Health Expert Witness
A mental health expert can provide testimony regarding the duress and mental stress that a plaintiff suffered while employed at a company. They take complex psychiatric diagnoses and explain them at a level that the average layman can understand. In some cases, a mental health expert may be currently treating the patient and can help shed light on what the patient is suffering from using a psychiatric perspective.
Vocational Rehabilitation Expert Witness
A vocational rehab expert can offer their expert opinion as to whether or not the worker can return to the same or similar line of work. They can also provide expert advice on whether or not the plaintiff has made a reasonable attempt at finding new employment.
When is an Expert Witness Required?
Expert witnesses are essential to both plaintiff and defense when it comes to disputes and legal matters. They are critical in the development and preparation of the case and can help introduce evidence that will bolster the arguments of their clients.
Generally speaking, expert witnesses are required in legal matters that require “scientific, technical or specialized knowledge.” For example, a lay person cannot provide expert testimony on matters about economic damages unless they were specially trained and licensed in such issues.
Expert witnesses are not required in areas where common sense, facts, or logic can easily be applied. Testimony from experts also cannot be used to determine the credibility of a witness, legal conclusions, or statutory interpretations.