How To Support Your Expert Witness for Optimal Outcomes By Avoiding These 4 Mistakes

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There are a lot of common mistakes that can happen when hiring experts. These mistakes can be varied, but expert witness mistakes often include last-minute scheduling, price resistance, unreasonable expectations, failing to frame key issues succinctly, and not being specific about what's needed from the expert witness. Not only can these mistakes lead to frustration, but they may also be a cause for unwanted outcomes. With considerable economic issues surrounding the value of any individual case, finding ways to support an expert witness could be the difference between a nuclear verdict, nuclear settlement, or settling the case for a more reasonable and appropriate amount.

How important is framing key issues for your expert witness?

Meandering case descriptions without a clear path for the expert witness can waste a lot of time for the attorney and the expert. Not every expert is suitable for every case, so without clearly framing the key issues of the case or succinctly identifying what is needed from the expert, they may be unable to determine if they are the right fit for that particular case.

Mistake #1 - Last-Minute Scheduling

One of the first questions a potential expert witness may ask is the deadlines for the case, juxtaposed to the volume of material that must be reviewed. In most instances, an expert witness can either put together a report quickly or they can put together a high-quality report. Like many other things, there is a trade-off, and trial attorneys can’t have both options together.  

For an expert witness, the more lead time a trial attorney can provide, the better the job the expert witness can do for that client. Conversely, many quality expert witnesses may have to turn down a job if they feel they can’t deliver a product that is up to their standards due to a compressed time frame. 

Mistake #2 - Failing to Frame Key Issues Succinctly

Frequently, when an expert witness asks a trial attorney what a specific case is about, the attorney will take upwards of 20 to 30 minutes going through the minutiae of the case. However, the expert witness is trying to ascertain the broad strokes of the case. Enough information to get a feel for what the case is about, but without being overloaded with information to the point where they feel like they are trying to drink from a fire hose. 

Not only do trial attorneys sometimes have problems framing key issues succinctly, but they may also struggle with not being specific about what the expert witness needs. Some examples include deficient evaluation of a claim, wrongful denial of coverage, or some other issue for which the expert is needed. 

Attorneys can better prepare for these conversations by crystallizing the issues they need an opinion on before making that initial contact with the expert. Trial attorneys and expert witnesses will also be better served when attorneys can articulate their needs precisely.

Mistake #3 - Expectations of an Immediate Opinion

Despite a desire on the part of the trial attorney for a quick assessment, an expert witness will not be able to provide their immediate opinions merely based on a short conversation detailing a case summary. In most instances, the expert will need time to thoroughly review all the documents involved. 

Similarly, an expert witness generally won’t be able to state whether their final opinion will align with the client's position. Most expert witnesses would find it intellectually dishonest to say that they can warrant and guarantee that their opinion will help the clients without first reviewing all relevant documents and materials. Every case has two sides, and the expert witness will strive to look at the case facts impartially and then deliver their opinions based on that information. 

Mistake #4 - Price Resistance

The idiom, "you get what to pay for," often means the price of something generally equals its quality. In other words, if something has a low price point, one might also assume it is low quality. While this is a generalization and is not always the case, hiring an expert witness is knowledge work, and attorneys want to ensure they hire someone of a high caliber. 

Defense attorneys and their clients, in particular, often have a mindset of constant control when hiring an expert witness; there is a greater cost sensitivity. At the same time, the plaintiff side is usually more inclined to see the cost of an expert witness not just as an investment in positioning their case but in strengthening that case to either leverage a better settlement or to see a higher verdict at trial. Remember that many variables can affect the price of an expert witness, such as how many documents need to be reviewed and whether the expert will need to testify at deposition or trial. Some of these variables may be under the trial attorney's control, while others may not. For instance, a case needing a 10-page report may have one cost associated with it; a separate case with 40 to 50 pages and heavily footnoted with industry resources will likely cost more. 

Expert witnesses can be critical in many cases, as they provide expertise and help jurors understand complex and nuanced information. At Courtroom Sciences, we can help you mitigate risk by helping train expert witnesses prior to their deposition or trial and testing their testimony with a science-based approach that leads to superior insights and predictive results. Talk to an expert to learn how Courtroom Sciences’ experts help deliver better litigation outcomes.

Key Takeaways

●  Mistakes made when hiring expert witnesses often include last-minute scheduling, price resistance, unreasonable expectations, and failing to frame key issues succinctly.

●  Expert witnesses can be critical in many cases, as they provide expertise and help jurors understand complex and nuanced information.

●  For an expert witness, the more lead time a trial attorney can provide, the better the job the expert witness can do for that client.

●  Attorneys need to be able to frame the key issues of the case and succinctly identify what is needed from the expert.

●  Courtroom Sciences can help you mitigate risk by providing expert resources, training, and testing.

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