What is an Expert Witness? Someone skilled in a particular art, trade or profession with special information or expertise in a particular area may be qualified as an expert witness. However, they must testify in the field which they qualified. Forensic Accountants testify in the field of accounting, finance, taxes, and related areas. They are not qualified to testify about other unrelated areas like dentistry, engineer specifications and so on.
Lay Witnesses versus Expert Witnesses. Lay witnesses may be eyewitnesses to an event and can tell what they saw, heard, felt or smelled for example; they are not allowed to say what other people said or express their opinion of the case. Expert Witnesses are considered technical witnesses and allowed to express their opinion on relevant issues within their field of expertise. Expert Witnesses are presumed to be explaining facts, why and how things happen, while being impartial and disinterested.
Five Reasons to Hire Expert Witnesses:
1. Required by Law. Often expert testimony is required in cases involving negligence in the practice of a profession. The expert witness assists the court and jurors in understanding whether the professional breached their objective standard of care required for that profession.
2. Tactical Reasons. The client or attorney may have a tactical reason for hiring an expert witness to introduce other-wise inadmissible evidence to the jury. As an expert you may quote and express an opinion about information which couldn’t be used otherwise.
3. Rebuttal. If the other side has hired an expert witness, you may need to hire one to rebut their expert’s opinion, analyze their report, or determine the reliability of their claims.
4. Assisting the Jury. Many times the facts may be extremely complicated, like with financial statements and transactions. An expert witness, like a Forensic Accountant or CPA may be able to analyze the information and summarize it more simply for the jurors and non-financial people to understand.
5. Facts may require an Expert. If the case involves very complex, technical or technological issues that are beyond the layman, an expert is required to interpret and analyze those issues.
Five Things That Experts Do:
1. They investigate and research the evidence, analyze and evaluate everything, along with determining what information is missing.
2. They help evaluate the merits of pleadings, claims, and document their work with a written report of their findings.
3. They will educate the lawyer, clients, judges, and jury on the evidence and facts surrounding the case. This means assisting in the discovery process, analyzing the claims, and review the law and how it applies in their specific field.
4. They testify in depositions and in court to explain and defend their conclusions. In some case, like with the Federal Trade Commission, expert witnesses may be allowed to cross-examine opposing witnesses before an administrative judge.
These are just a few of the things which Expert Witnesses and Forensic Accountants do for the courts. We will explore more in future articles.