29 May Examples from Movies on Choosing An Expert Witness
We see expert witnesses in movies and tv all the time. You might remember famous scenes from movies like My Cousin Vinny, Primal Fear, and of course who could forget A Few Good Men. While these expert witnesses are fictional, they do give some insight into what you do, and don’t, want in an expert witness. There are a lot of ‘experts’ out there, but not all have the same level of expertise or professionalism in a courtroom. Let’s take a look at some of the qualities you do want to look for when choosing an expert witness for a case.
When working with an expert, you don’t just need the opinion, but also credible documentation to back up the claims. Experts in the field are just that, experts in their field. They don’t always know the level of detail or supporting information needed for legal cases. Or they overlook details that seem obvious to them. Take the scene from My Cousin Vinny. The expert witness starts exclaiming that the question posed to test her credibility is a trick question. There is some confusion because the people in the court don’t have the same knowledge she has. By outlining her knowledge, she proves she is credible because the question posed is completely fictional.
A good expert witness is much different than an expert. An expert witness knows their responsibility is to help people understand the complexity of their area of expertise and they can talk about the information clearly. Everything that is stated must be backed up with verifiable documentation. Without this, experts fail to contribute in a meaningful way to the case. When you start working with someone, note their attention to detail and make sure they provide documented opinions with supporting material.
Works in the field
The people with the most knowledge are the people doing the work in their area every day. The experts who know a lot about a subject are at risk for not knowing things that come from practice, not just study. This is also true of the type of expert you get. If you’re looking specifically at a roofing issue or building leak issue, you’re going to want someone who specializes in those areas, not someone with a surface level understanding. ‘Experts’ who know a few things about roofing systems are not going to have the depth of knowledge a true roofing system expert will. Although not an expert witness, take an example for this scene from the movie, Legally Blonde. The case rests on this witness, but because she doesn’t have the expert information from working with hair products, she incriminates herself due to an error in her testimony.
(around the 2-minute mark)
Reliable and Independent
Obviously experts need to be reliable, but just as important, they need to be independent. There are a number of examples of this from tv and movies, but the most important takeaway is that your expert witness does not have any interests in the case. They are there to present information based on their expertise. You have to be able to trust your expert witness. They need to present clear and reliable information without influence from other people or agendas. Your expert witness also needs to be reliable. Note how quickly your witness gets back in communication with you when needed and make sure you can depend on them to be on time and in the right place at the right time.
The best way to know if an expert is reliable and an asset is to go with someone who is court proven. You can rest assured your expert knows what is expected and how to get the job done when you go with someone who has already been through this experience. Court proven experts also know the right questions to ask about a roofing issue. They know what to look for and help guide your litigation with the technical information to support your clients’ claim. While this example from Erin Brockovich isn’t from the case in court, it does show the downfall of inexperience. The young attorney is confident, but is no match for Erin and the legal team suing BP&E.
Not all experts are created equal. Be sure to strengthen your case with information you can trust, and verify, from a true professional in roofing and roof systems. As independent roof specialists, we can help answer questions, assess roofing systems, or act as an expert witness for your case.