Expert Witness Law and Legal Definition

An expert witness is a witness who has knowledge beyond that of the ordinary lay person enabling him/her to give testimony regarding an issue that requires expertise to understand. Experts are allowed to give opinion testimony which a non-expert witness may be prohibited from testifying to. In court, the party offering the expert must lay a foundation for the expert's testimony. Laying the foundation involves testifying about the expert's credentials and experience that qualifies him/her as an expert. Sometimes the opposing party will stipulate (agree to) to the expert's qualifications in the interests of judicial economy.

Experts are qualified according to a number of factors, including but not limited to, the number of years they have practiced in their respective field, work experience related to the case, published works, certifications, licensing, training, education, awards, and peer recognition. They may be called as upon as consultants to a case and also used to give testimony at trial. Once listed as a witness for trial, the materials they rely upon in forming an opinion in the case is subject to discovery by the opposing parties. Expert testimony is subject to attack on cross-examination in the form of questioning designed to bring out any limitations in the witness's qualifications and experience, lack of witness's confidence in his opinions, lack of the preparation done, or unreliability of the expert's sources, tests, and methods, among other issues.

Experts in a wide variety of backgrounds may testify, such as construction, forensics, gemstones, and many more areas. They are allowed to be compensated for their time and expenses in preparing for and giving testimony, as long as they are not being paid to perjure themselves.

For example, doctors often serve as expert witnesses and may provide testimony regarding the following issues, among others:

  • Physician Projected Future Medical Costs Analysis
  • Vocational Assessments
  • Loss of Future
  • Earnings Capacity Analysis
  • Reduction of Work Life Expectancy Analysis
  • Disability Assessments
  • Permanent and Total Disability Determination
  • Independent Medical Evaluations