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Expert Witnesses

Experts can play an important role in your case, depending on the issues in the case. We all remember the O.J. Simpson trial. Remember the experts who testified about the DNA in the blood samples?

The Rules of Evidence allow the use of experts to assist the court or jury in technical areas. Not all cases require the use of experts. However, for cases involving issues in areas such as medicine, construction, accounting, real estate valuation, the generally accepted practice in a particular field and the like, experts can be very helpful.

Experts are persons with special knowledge, training, or experience in a particular area. Experts provide the court or jury with an objective opinion on an issue. Commonly used experts are physicians, engineers, architects, accountant, real estate appraisers, economists, and many more. They are usually practicing professionals, retired professionals, or university professors.

For example, suppose you filed a lawsuit alleging that your house leaks. An expert, usually an architect or engineer, will look at the plans, inspect the house, and form a professional opinion as to the cause of the leaks. This opinion is important because if the leaks are due to a design defect, then the architect can be implicated. If they are due to a construction defect, then the contractor can be implicated.

The expert can present his or her opinion in a report, at a deposition (a statement given under oath) and in court. The opposing party may call his or her own expert to testify on the same issue.

In a personal injury case, a physician would give his or her opinion as to whether the plaintiff's back pain, for example, is attributable to the fall or to a prior injury. The expert could even apportion the cause of the back pain between the fall and the prior injury.

If a case turns on an issue that calls for an expert's opinion, then the choice of expert is critical. A good expert not only has the necessary knowledge, training, and experience, but is also able to communicate effectively with a lay audience. It is of no use to have a brilliant expert that no one can understand.

Experts usually bill on an hourly basis. Fees of nationally prominent experts can be quite high, but there are many excellent and well-known experts here in Hawaii. Most attorneys have a mental list of experts to use for particular types of case.

Keep these considerations in mind if you are in a dispute that involves technical issues. A good expert can be very helpful.

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