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What Makes a Great Construction Expert Witness?

December 20, 2017

Merriam Webster dictionary defines expert as “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.” However, an expert isn’t always a good expert witness. And many can testify to the fact that a good expert witness sometimes isn’t good enough. Do you want to take the risk and choose just any expert to support your case, or do you want a great construction expert witness in California?

VERTEX has a team of great expert witnesses with proven experience in their specialty fields and in the courtroom. We know what it takes to be a truly great expert witness. Actually, we can corroborate that with the opinions of past attorney clients. In 2012, we asked them to say how they see “excellence in experts” and rounded them up for a feature on San Diego Daily Transcript. We will present you with some of them here.

What should a good construction expert witness do?

To understand the traits of a great expert witness, we should first discuss what a good expert witness should do. A good construction expert witness is the one that manages to:

  • Demonstrate their qualifications and competence to be called upon as an expert
  • Communicate articulately, with confidence, authority and persuasion but without appearing arrogant
  • Break down complex and complicated concepts into simple common sense
  • Listen carefully to questions and answer them in a way that’s easy to follow
  • Look the part

These qualities are important for any expert to be good, whether they come from California, New York, or elsewhere.

What does a great construction expert witness do?

The difference between good and great is in the nuances. However, nuances can determine the course of a legal proceeding. Here is how an expert witness excels at giving expert testimonies and depositions.

The best expert witnesses are outstanding presenters, who know it’s essential to keep one’s answers clear and concise. A novice presenter or an expert not well-experienced in trials could exasperate or annoy the judge and the jury by providing answers which are too broad, confusing, or full of jargon. Robert O’Connor of O’Connor, Packer, and Dunivan, says this:

An excellent expert has a significant amount of hands on knowledge and personal experience in his/her field of expertise and is able to describe clearly and concisely to a lay person the problem and a reasonable solution.

Robert O’Connor

As much as it’s about knowing what to say, it’s also about saying it the right way. An expert witness that will impress the judge or the jury knows such details, like when to make a pause, what kind of tone to use, and very importantly – when to say nothing.

‘I have always found the best experts know when to “shut up”

Michael B. Martin of Grimm, Vranjes & Greer LLP

Lawyers are artful at manipulating people into saying more than necessary, which is something that a great expert witness will resist.

It is also important to know who to talk to. Many would think that you should answer the person asking the questions. However, when you are in court, the persons that the expert witness should actually connect to are the finders of fact. Those people are either the judge, the jury, or both. It is these people, not the opposing attorney, who are making the decision whether something actually happened or not. According to P. Randolph Finch Jr., Partner at Marks, Finch, Thornton & Baird, LLP, the excellence is contained in the ‘ability to efficiently digest complicated facts and reach an opinion which is both neutral and persuasive at the same time.’

An expert witness will also know how to stay composed and cool. The opposing party will often try to agitate the witness in order to undermine their credibility. This is something that a great construction expert witness in California will know how to maneuver.

An excellent expert witness knows how to distinguish answering a question based on what they know and what they hypothesize. The opposing party may try to lure the expert witness into answering a hypothetical question with certainty, which can be the crack that breaks the expert’s efforts.

Great expert witnesses know the ins and outs of legal proceedings and can navigate them without compromising their performance. Trials can be not only full of pressure but also boring, both of which can make the expert witness lose their edge. Skillful expert witnesses will also be able to anticipate the opposing party’s strategy and stay ahead of it.

Finally, a superior expert witness will be skilled at managing their body language. Controlling the signals we send with our posture, gestures and facial expressions can be more difficult than it sounds, and takes thorough training. A witness who fidgets, shows anger or contempt on their face, or who is too rigid or casual, can lose the trust of the judge or jury.

Need a construction expert witness in California?

VERTEX brings together a diverse and experienced team of construction experts and forensic engineers to serve your needs from California to New York and beyond.

To learn more about VERTEX’s Forensic Consulting services or to speak with an Expert, call 888.298.5162 or submit an inquiry

This article was originally published by Xpera Group which is now part of The Vertex Companies, Inc.

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