Expert Witness Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Expert Witness, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Expert Witness?

n. Specialist in a subject who may present their expert opinion without being a witness to the occurrence related to the lawsuit or criminal case. If the expert is qualified by evidence of their expertise, training, or special knowledge, they are an exception to the rule against providing an opinion as testimony. The attorney for the party calling the expert must show the expert’s qualifications if they are challenged and the trial judge has the discretion to rule if he/she is qualified as an expert, or is limited on the subjects that they are an expert on. Typically, experts are paid handsomely for their services. In most jurisdictions, both sides exchange the names and addresses of proposed experts during the pre-trial depositions.

History and Meaning of Expert Witness

Expert witness is a term used to describe a professional, who is qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, and education, to provide an opinion in a specific area that is relevant to a legal proceeding. This opinion often helps the court or jury make sense of complex information in order to make a more informed decision. Expert witnesses have been used in legal proceedings for centuries, with the concept being traced back to as early as sixteenth century England.

While the concept of expert witnesses stretches back centuries, it wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that the modern version of expert witnesses became commonplace in legal proceedings. The increasing complexity of technical and scientific developments, and the legal disputes that arose from them, necessitated the need for expert witnesses.

Examples of Expert Witness

  1. A doctor who is called to provide an opinion in a case related to medical malpractice.

  2. A forensic accountant who is asked to provide an opinion in a case related to financial fraud.

  3. A traffic engineer who is called to provide an opinion in a case related to a traffic accident.

  4. A construction expert who is asked to provide an opinion in a case related to a construction defect.

  5. An expert in computer forensics who is called to provide an opinion in a case related to cybercrime.

Legal Terms Similar to Expert Witness

  1. Lay Witness: A non-expert witness who provides testimony based on their personal knowledge and experience.

  2. Fact Witness: Similar to a lay witness, but specifically provides testimony about facts relevant to the case.

  3. Hearsay: An out-of-court statement presented as evidence, typically not admissible in court, except in specific circumstances.

  4. Testimony: A form of evidence where a witness provides information, under oath or affirmation, that helps the court or jury understand the facts of a case.

  5. Daubert Standard: A legal standard used in the United States to determine the admissibility of expert witness testimony in federal courts.