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A Short Guide to the Role of an Expert Witness

When it comes to legal affairs, expert witnesses provide a special service. In disputes, they use their expertise to offer their professional and impartial opinion on various matters. However, the role of an expert witness is often misunderstood. When it comes to legal proceedings, it is important to be able to tell the difference between evidence given by an expert witness and a layperson. Here is a short guide to the role of expert witnesses in law.

The Role of an Expert Witness

The Civil Procedure Rules, or the CPR, is created as a part of a procedural code to enable courts to deal with cases in a just manner. They apply to courts in England and Wales, and under the Civil Procedure Rules, an expert witness must be unbiased. Using specialist knowledge, they must provide the court with an impartial opinion to an expert report. Their expert knowledge should be achieved through experience, qualifications, training, and education. The court should be able to rely on the testimony of the expert witness due to the scope of their expertise regarding the matter at hand. If mutually agreed, both parties can employ the same expert witness to provide evidence. This can help both parties cut costs by employing separate witnesses. However, in many jurisdictions, such as in England and Wales, the court must give permission for the employment of an expert witness.

Different Types of Expert Witnesses

Within England and Wales, there are three different types of experts; a party-appointed expert (PAE), a single joint expert (SJE), and an expert adviser (Shadow Expert). A PAE is employed by one of the parties, but their duty is primarily to assist the court. An SJE is employed and takes instruction from both parties, and their duty is also primarily to assist the court. An expert advisor is employed by a party to advise; they are not covered by the Civil Procedure Rules, their primary duty is not to the court, and they do not usually give evidence.

Areas of Specialism

In court, there is a huge variety of cases, and so there are many different expert witnesses with different areas of specialism. Some experts may specialise in one specific area, while others may have the specialist knowledge to provide evidence in two or more areas. For example, a forensic expert witness can provide their expert opinion in cases involving a combination of criminal and civil activity. In contrast, a medical expert witness can testify in personal injury and medical malpractice cases to provide insight into the pain experienced by either party.

Who Can Be an Expert Witness?

An individual does not need to possess anything specific to become an expert witness, but they do need to have experience and technical or professional knowledge in their field of expertise so that their opinion can be trusted on court matters. Expert witnesses can practice autonomously, and they can perform their duties alongside their regular job roles. Providing an expert opinion in court is a prestigious honour and it can be incredibly rewarding.