3 Essential Questions When Choosing an Expert Witness

There are three essential questions to address when choosing an expert:
  1. Is your expert an actual expert?
  2. Is your expert a good communicator?
  3. When should you bring the expert onboard?
Is your expert an actual expert?

It sounds simple enough. But not everyone setting himself out as an expert is actually an expert. I’ve seen experts speak on insurance agents’ standard of care who have never sold an actual policy. A real expert will only take cases within their expert areas and decline those outside their areas of expertise. Find a genuine expert on the subjects in question, not someone who just read books about it.

In addition to following their areas of expertise, a real expert is independent and only takes cases with which they agree. You don’t need an expert that will tell you what you want to hear. You need an expert that tells you what you need to hear. 

Experts are expensive. First and foremost, they should be trying to do the best job possible once they believe in your case. But secondly, they should care about your budget. I’ve seen experts write page after page with lots of insurance information, but unfortunately, none of it had anything to do with the case at hand. I wonder why they wrote a 20-page document when ten pages would have been more effective and more cost-effective as well. An expert should respect your budget and try to do the best job at the least cost.

Is your expert a good communicator?

While being a true expert is the essential skill, almost equal is the ability to be a good communicator. Can the expert communicate well in writing and in person? The first choice is finding a great expert in the field you need, and the second is finding a great communicator who can explain answers well. Writers and teachers are among the best communicators. See if your expert has taught and/or written on the subject? A teacher learns to communicate well and handle difficult questions. Good instructors understand the need to understand their topics extensively so they can teach others.   

When should you bring the expert onboard?

The answer is simple: sooner rather than later. The obvious is not always obvious. In one insurance case, the attorney conceded points of the case that he should have contested. The other side won a victory because the expert had not been hired yet. Many experts have been frustrated by being brought into the case too late.  

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