Expert Witness Qualifications

Below is the commentary from attorney David Tirella on how to find  a quality expert witnesses

A Four "P" Expert -

After years of locating, interviewing, and personally hiring hundreds of authoritative expert witnesses, I now believe the process of selecting experts can be narrowed down to four simple questions. If all four questions can be answered in the affirmative, then the type of quality witness that will help advance any litigation case has been found. I refer to this type of exceptional expert witness as a "four P expert." A "four P expert" is a person who has the following qualifications: The witness is a practitioner in his or her field of study; the witness is a professor in his or her field of study; the witness has  published peer review articles, textbooks, or guidelines in his or her field of study; the witness presents well in front of a jury.

Practitioner -- One Who Practices an Occupation, Profession, or Technique -

The first "P" of a "four P expert" stands for practitioner. Dictionary.com defines a practitioner as "one who practices something, especially an occupation, profession, or technique." Practitioners are engineers, technicians, physicians, surgeons, dentists, scientists, counselors, and hundreds of other jobs. Expert witnesses who possess practitioner experience have an advantage in testifying before a jury because they routinely perform the very procedure or practice that is being questioned in the litigation. A practitioner expert witness can look the jurors in the eye and confidently assure them that his or her opinions are correct. This confidence stems from the fact that the practitioner expert successfully performs the questioned procedure on a regular basis. An expert witness who has little or no hands-on experience can be vulnerable to cross examination, even if the expert has an impressive curriculum vitae. An expert witness with practitioner experience, on the other hand, can quiet critics, whether they are judge, jury, or opposing counsel contending that the expert is merely restating opinions he has only read about. Quite simply, there is no substitute for doing.

Published -- One Who Has Been Published in Periodicals or Books -

The second "P" of a "four P expert" stands for published. An expert who has published peer review professional journal articles, chapters in texts, or books will have a strong working knowledge of all published opinions and counter opinions on the area in question. A published expert witness can explain to a jury how his or her opinions agree or disagree with other national published experts. An expert witness who has published in peer review publications gets the benefit of the jury's understanding that her research and opinions have been deemed worthy to publish for all the world to see. In short, this kind of witness has authority and veracity.

Professor -- a Teacher or Instructor -

The third "P" of a "four P expert" stands for professor. An expert witness with teaching experience, especially in the area in question, is a tremendous advantage. Virtually every civil law suit needs such a teaching witness to help explain the issues of liability, causation, and damages to the jury. Further, such a witness will be able to explain these issues and opinions in a clear and concise manner that is ideally suited for a courtroom presentation. Not all expert witnesses have such teaching experience, and hence may not be ideal for creating a teaching environment for the jury. Who is better qualified to teach a jury than a quality teacher?

Presentation -- a Lecture or Speech Set Forth for an Audience -

The fourth "P" of a "four P expert" stands for presentation. Research tells us that for many individuals, the messenger is just as important as the message. If this research is accurate, then trial lawyers must be sensitive to what their expert witnesses look and sound like in hope of having a messenger to which the jury can easily relate.

Credibility and personal likeability are intertwined with actual content of the message. If time is not an issue in the case, then a personal visit to any new potential expert witness is well worth the time and effort in order to ascertain how the expert presents. If time is short, then a current photograph and a curriculum vitae for your analysis before retaining an expert witness can be very helpful. Having a one-on-one meeting with the potential expert witness can help to resolve any potential issues that a jury might have with the witness. As we know, a picture is worth a thousand words.