When complicated or highly technical issues arise in a legal proceeding, an expert witness may be called upon to testify and help the judge or jury better understand the issues at hand. Even before a case reaches trial, experts can play an important role in helping size up the case and reaching a settlement. This is particularly true in real property disputes. Today, we’ll take a thorough look at the duties and responsibilities of an expert witness.
When an attorney is seeking an expert on one of their cases, they often reach out to multiple experts to find the right fit. During this stage, it is the expert’s responsibility, to be honest about their background and expertise and ensure they are a good fit for the case. Experts also need to conduct a conflict check by reviewing the names of all parties involved and make sure they have no potential conflicts of interest.
Attorneys can benefit greatly from getting an expert on board early to serve as a consultant. During this stage, the consulting expert can help evaluate the case by reviewing relevant documentation and conducting inspections, test, or evaluations. Based on the outcome of these activities, the attorney and their client will start to gain a better idea of their options and perhaps revise their case strategy. The consulting experts’ value at this stage is to educate the attorney on technical matters that go beyond their expertise.
Motions for Summary Judgment
If one of the parties in the lawsuit believes the action has no merit or defense, they may ask for a summary judgment. During this stage, the expert may be called upon to provide their opinions in support of or opposition to the motion. Experts should take their time writing such declarations to ensure their accuracy and provide the right supporting documentation when necessary.
A deposition is a critical step in the process where an expert goes on the record and is questioned by the opposing counsel. When it comes time to depose the experts in a case, preparation is key. Experts at this stage should make a list of all possible questions they could be asked and make sure they feel prepared to respond honestly. The retaining attorney should assist in this preparation process to make sure no stone goes unturned. Experts need to be incredibly careful at this stage to not act in any way that would question their credibility.
Testifying at Trial
While most people think of experts as primarily being used to testify at trial, very few cases reach this stage. As the previous sections show, experts can be highly important to a case even before playing the role of an expert witness at trial. At trial, it is the expert’s job to help the judge or jury better understand complex topics beyond common experience. This is the primary thing they should be prepared for, but there are also important procedural elements they must expect, like demonstrating their qualifications in a process known as voir dire. This is where a seasoned expert with past trial experience is extra valuable. They will have been through the wringer before and can stay calm and focused under any pressure that may arise. Ultimately, the expert is not there to take sides, they are there to educate. Just like in deposition, a well-prepared expert will have a much easier time at trial than one who hasn’t spent the time to thoroughly think through the case.
When handling a real property or landlord-tenant dispute, it may be to your benefit to retain the services of an expert witness. However, it cannot be assumed that the role of an expert witness will be to back up your client. Ultimately, the responsibility of an expert witness is to provide their objective opinion or explanation of a specific matter that is beyond common understanding. When looking for a real estate expert witness in the San Francisco Bay Area, consider Edrington & Associates’ extensive history serving as expert witnesses in a wide variety of cases. We specialize in expert witness testimony regarding a property owner’s standard of care, habitability complaints, wrongful eviction, damages, and more. Our team’s expertise stems from decades of experience as landlords, property managers, real estate brokers, and building inspectors. When you need a professional interpretation of the issues in your case, look no further than Edrington & Associates to serve your needs. Contact us today to discuss your case in detail.