Instructing Experts – A Few Things To Bear In Mind

In litigation, it is an accepted rule of evidence that the opinion of a witness cannot be given as evidence in court. A witness' statement - whether written or given in court - is only admissible if this is limited to the facts. However, certain exceptions apply. The most common exception relates to the opinion of an Expert Witness.

What is an Expert Witness?

In some cases, not all the issues are purely legal. It is common for scientific or technical matters to be considered as part of the wider legal issues in dispute. A judge may not have any knowledge or experience in these non-legal disciplines and they would need the assistance of an expert opinion from relevant practitioners with expertise in those fields.

Choose an informed expert

It is of utmost importance that you find the right expert for your case. You need to ensure that your expert is adequately familiar with the areas they will be providing an opinion on. If the area they would be advising on is niche and specific, it's best the expert be just as specific in their knowledge and experience.

For example, it would be preferable for an electrical engineer to act as expert witness in a case involving disputed electrical engineering systems - rather than a generalist engineer.

Without doubt, they must be independent and impartial. Indeed some prior experience as an expert witness may be useful as examination and cross-examination may be stressful and challenging for some.

Ensure they are available

It may be common for expert witnesses to undertake other work beyond your case. For example a medical expert you have instructed may have their own patients to see or may be acting as an expert for other cases.

Therefore it is important to make sure they have the capacity to carry out the work for your case. Capacity issues may vary from case to case. For example, does your medical expert need to see you to carry out medical tests before preparing their report? Can they prepare the report in time? Are they free to attend court if required? These are all issues you need to keep in mind when reviewing experts.

An expert's duty to the court

The expert witness must understand the relevant obligations and responsibilities that come with acting as an expert witness. In the English courts, all expert witnesses must assist the court with all matters within their expertise and this duty overrides any obligation to you as the instructing party.

Limits on expert witnesses

There are many rules regarding the use of experts in court. For example: you need to apply before you can use an expert in proceedings; expert reports must meet some general requirements; costs estimates must be provided; the number of experts that can be instructed can be limited too, in some cases shared by both parties. These are but a few of the rules that govern the use of experts.

As such instructing an expert witness can be quite difficult for a party without experience of this.

How we can help

We understand that the process of litigating can be tough and challenging with all the court procedures to understand and the various rules to comply with. Our specialist teams here at Saunders are well equipped to take on these challenges, drawing from a wealth of experience in litigation.

If you require any assistance with your matter, we provide a no-obligation, no-cost chat to discuss how we may be able to help you. To find out if we are able to assist, contact us at 02076324300 or make an enquiry online.


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