14 Aug When It Comes to Deposing an Expert Witness
When it comes to deposing an expert witness, there are a number of tactics an attorney might take. As a court reporter, there are days when it can feel like a constant barrage of questions and answers being made in an effort to wear down the expert to the point that they may not make sense. If the witness is properly prepared, they can answer almost anything that’s asked.
What is an expert witness?
An expert witness is someone called to testify at a deposition who has specialized training and knowledge on a topic related to the case. If there is a question about evidence related to a computer, there may be a forensics expert who is trained in what is essentially digital detective work. It is their role to put the evidence together in a way that makes sense for the case.
Tip from your court reporter
As a court reporter, it is helpful to have the expert witness name, credentials, title, and technical terms that may come up during the deposition so we can familiarize ourselves with the case ahead of time. It can eliminate some of the clarification that tends to happen during a highly technical case.
Preparing the Witness
Expert or not, the witness should be prepared for what is going to happen at the deposition. They need a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Why are they being called as witness? What might they offer that can help the case? What is the strategy of the opposing counsel? This is really important as it will determine the line of questioning. Answers to these and other questions will prepare your witness for their deposition.
- Give them time to review reports and evidence they may have prepared related to the case so they can accurately recall events and facts.
- Gently remind them to speak clearly and slow enough for their Chicago court reporter to record what they’re saying. Often reporters have to make a note to check words that were said and it can take time from delivering a final transcript to the attorney. The more that can be done at the deposition, the better for the case and client.
- Answer only the questions asked. Sounds silly but expert witnesses often want to add to their answer. It’s not to lie but rather to expand on their answer, to make sure they’re being clear. We recommend not doing that because there may be a reason questions are being asked in the order and way they’re being asked.
Hire the Right Expert Witness
Don’t just Google to find your next expert witness. Research. Ask for recommendations. Interview a number of experts before choosing the one for your case. Make sure you understand their areas of expertise (medical, business, forensics, and engineering), availability, and your strategy before hiring them. Failure to do so can cause embarrassment in the courtroom. Other attorneys who have used expert witnesses it the past can be a good starting point.
- Some experts want to “preach” or show how much knowledge they have.
- Choose one that is precise, controlled and eloquent enough to answer questions well.
- Pick someone well researched and known in their field.
Don’t Forget the Court Reporter
Want to know what our court reporters appreciate? Being involved. Please remember to notify your reporter of the witness name, area of expertise, and any industry-related lingo that is pertinent to their understanding of the case. It will help the deposition and proceedings run smoother if they’re not constantly asking for clarification of names and terminology.
Preparation is Key
The expert witness is as important to the case as anyone else involved. They need a clear understanding of the facts, your strategy, and the opposing counsel’s strategy in order to formulate answers to your questions.
- Allow time for them to review their own reports and evidence so they can provide answers to specific questions.
- Review other witness deposition transcripts.
- Review opposing counsels witness’s reports and opinion.
- Pick someone who comes across knowledgeable and likable before the jurors.
- Remind them (and yourself) to speak loudly and clearly so the court reporter can accurately record their testimony.
- Answer questions in a way the jury, their audience, understands.
- Experts are well versed in their field and tend to give long winded answers. Encourage them to answer only what is asked in as concise a manner as possible. The last thing you need is for them to get hung up on cross examination.
While we can’t guarantee your case will run as smoothly as the crime shows on television, we know from experience that a bit of preparation and notification will go a long way for your expert witness and court reporter.
If you’re in need of a court reporter for deposing a witness for an upcoming case, we’re here to provide experienced people to you and your legal team.