Qualifying the Expert Witness
An expert witness is one who has knowledge or experience beyond what is considered common. Expert witnesses can bring credibility to a legal case, or can be used to cast doubt on evidence or facts presented by the opposing attorney.
Before testifying before a jury, an expert witness must be qualified by the court, based on expertise, accomplishments, and training directly related to the subject matter of the case. Qualifying an expert witness must be done carefully to ensure that the expert's testimony is allowed at trial, and is accepted and believed by the jurors. Impressing the jury with expert testimony is often crucial at trial.
The lawyer responsible for hiring the expert witness is responsible for convincing the judge that the witness in fact possesses specialized experience and training. The opposing lawyer has the right to cross-examine the expert witness in an attempt to disprove the qualifications of the witness. Questioning is focused on the background, training, education, skills, experience, and knowledge of the expert. Education and degrees are often highly regarded by courts as evidence of expertise, but an expert witness can also be qualified based on experience and skills alone. Once the questioning of the witness has concluded, the court will then make a ruling on whether or not the witness will be accepted as an expert in their field.
An expert's experience, qualifications, and credibility should be presented to the jury without any hint of boasting or exaggeration. Jurors are less likely to connect with and believe the testimony of an expert witness when they feel resentment created by an immodest display of awards and degrees. It the lawyer's job to bring out the expert's superior credentials. This approach will ensure the jury does not form resentment based on the perception that the expert witness seeks to parade their accomplishments in front of the court.
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