Choosing the right expert can be difficult. Reviewing a curriculum vitae will not necessarily provide a clear evaluation of an expert’s experience. An expert having a weakness in your area of technical pursuit will likely leave an unnecessary focus for attack by opposing counsel or perhaps allow opposing counsel to sigh in relief at recognizing that your expert did not fully appreciate the aspects of the matter. To aid in your choices, here are some basic rules when choosing an expert:
- Developing a case and preparing for court is a business. Therefore, cost is a consideration. However, do not simply look at hourly rates. Discuss budgets. What is the estimated cost for a preliminary review, for a site examination, and to produce a report?
- Find a qualified expert. On paper, everyone looks good. You need to look a bit deeper. Get to understand the experience, abilities, and knowledge of the expert. If the engaged expert misses an important point, it weakens your position.
- Look at the firm:
- What support does the firm provide for the expert and in turn provide as a benefit to you? This is not easy to evaluate, so question, are you engaging an expert or a firm?
- Investigation may start in one area and as discovery moves forward, the technical focus may change. When this occurs, the firm you engaged needs to shift gears and there may be a need for an alternate or additional expert. As deadlines approach, can the expert services you are engaging respond to new or changing technical needs?
- Your case may warrant specialized services like 3D Laser Scanning, Biomechanical analysis, Industrial Hygiene evaluation, or Toxicology. Can the firm you are considering satisfy all of your needs?
- Forensic expert witnesses often do primarily plaintiff or defense work. At CESI we work with both plaintiff and defense attorneys. The expert services that we provide are approximately 50% on behalf of the plaintiff and 50% on behalf of the defense. We do not choose a side. We investigate the facts and provide opinions based on what we find. We consider both sides of the story – the claims by the plaintiff and the responses by the defendant. For certain matters the incident circumstances may not result in a beneficial conclusion for a certain party; however, often there are two sides to the story and likely shared responsibilities. When it comes to technical issues your expert should work as an aid to educate you on opposing views of the matter. Working with both plaintiff and defense attorneys gives the expert an advantage.
- Finally, the matter may go to trial. Will you be satisfied and confident presenting this expert to the jury?
Interview your expert, consider the overall services of the firm you are engaging, and discuss cost. In court or at the conclusion of a matter, don’t be surprised or short changed.
Please call us at 610-296-2250 with any questions.
Author: Ronald J. Cohen, P.E.