There are many different types of witnesses who can give testimony during criminal and civil trials. One of those types of witnesses is an expert witness, which is someone who has a high level of expertise in a particular area, and who can offer insight to help the jury decide on a verdict.
Expert witnesses are important in both civil and criminal trials, as well as appellate courts. Expert witnesses can explain complex terms and concepts to the jury and can help to make associations for comparison. This is especially true in cases that require the testimony of an experienced physician or psychiatrist.
When hiring an expert witness, your first instinct might be to go straight to the phone book, which is not your best option. Instead, you will need to survey possibilities outside your general locality. Although it might be less expensive to hire a local expert witness, the quality of that witness could mean the difference between a reliable, believable testimony and a flop.
The first place to look when hiring an expert witness is the Internet. There are plenty of websites that provide contact information for successful expert witnesses who provide testimony on a regular basis. These people have many years of experience on the stand and are well-versed at providing quality testimony.
You can also talk to people in the industry, such as local doctors, who know of people who provide expert witness testimony. First-hand references are invaluable in this area because, even if the expert witness is knowledgeable, his or her presence on the stand and ability to convey ideas will be central to your case.
Select three to four options for expert witnesses and interview them all. Ask about their previous testimony experiences and their success rates for either acquittals or convictions (whichever you need). You can also ask your attorney to interview them all because he or she might be able to make a more informed decision.
You should also ask for references from expert witnesses to verify that they have in fact given testimony. Ask references whether they arrived on time, dressed appropriately and with plenty of information.
And finally, ask about rates. Expert witnesses may charge up to $200.00 per hour for their testimony, which can take a big chunk of change in addition to your legal fees. The object is to find a qualified expert witness who can testify within your budget. Unlike attorneys, you won’t find many expert witnesses who will testify “pro bono” unless your case furthers their cause. For example, a psychologist who is performing research on murderers with insanity defenses may agree to testify for you in order to add to his or her research.