GUEST BLOG | What is an Expert Witness?

Posted by Simon Berney-Edwards Chief Executive Officer from the Expert Witness Institute on Wednesday, December 16, 2020


When expert evidence is called for in a court of law…it’s time to call in the expert witness.

In so many trials, it is the carefully considered evidence of expert witnesses that can ensure a just outcome. A court of law is a place where a fact is not a fact until it is proved -- or in certain cases, disproved -- by incontrovertible evidence. Here, the role of the expert witness becomes paramount.

Often, the evidence put forward in a trial by an expert witness can be a deciding factor in tipping the balance in favour of a well-informed, reliable well considered judgment.

The role of an Expert Witness

To be an expert witness, you need to be an expert. This may seem obvious, but note that an expert is not the same as an expert witness

An expert is anyone with specialist knowledge not commonly held, or likely to be understood by a layman. When there is no intention to place an expert’s opinion before the court, that person is referred to as an expert advisor and may take on a number of behind-the-scenes roles.

As an expert witness however, you will need to offer additional skills and abilities – courtroom skills and report writing, for example -- which can be enhanced by training and developed over time.

When in court, the expert witness methodically presents opinion evidence based on evidence of fact. The subsequent report -- which the expert witness also prepares -- would be written within a specified time scale in compliance with specific legal guidelines.

The Expert’s duty to the Court

Key to understanding the role of an Expert Witness is the duty to the court. As an Expert Witness you will be appointed by the instructing party (usually a law firm) to write a report based on the disclosed evidence and/or an assessment. You will be asked to consider particular points which are of interest to the case. However, the important factor is that your report is to support the judge and court in making their decision by providing unbiased and impartial expert opinion. Your role is not to provide the instructing party with the answers they are looking for. Essentially, you need to be able to confirm that the answers you are asked to write would be the same no matter which side had instructed you.

To summarise, an expert witness is an also an expert, but one whose specialist knowledge supports considered opinions which may be placed before a court (or other judicial or quasi-judicial body – for example, a tribunal or arbitration).

Interested in becoming an Expert Witness?

Before you become an Expert Witness, it is important that you make sure you understand the role and the requirements. At the Expert Witness we can support you as you develop your practice. Why not book for our popular Expert Essentials webinar which is a great introduction to everything you'll need to know about your work as an Expert Witness? And if you join as a prospective member, you’ll also get discounts on training and access to a range of resources.


Simon Berney-Edwards
Chief Executive Officer
Expert Witness Institute