This is the second of a two part series where, as an expert witness over the last two decades, I am sharing my thoughts as to how the attorney-expert relationship can be the most effective. Part one is now on my blogsite: www.pcandsblog.wordpress.com.
You should be convinced that the potential expert understands his or her neutral approach to the case. Several years ago, a presentation that I gave to an insurance claims association was entitled: “Don’t Mention That H…. G.. Expression.” In your initial contact with a potential expert, always try to get a sense of whether or not the individual wants to study and take an unbiased look at the matter or just wants a job! In addition to the obvious ethical consideration, an expert expressing an opinion just for the pay will likely be “exposed” before the trial is over. Having said that, let me admit that, as you know, not many cases are “black and white” in fact or opinion. The expert must realize that he or she is not in the advocacy position of an attorney.
Even though most of us enjoy our work, monetary remuneration is a necessary fact of life. At the initial contact with a potential expert be sure an agreement is reached as to pay scale, nature of a retainer, and expense reimbursement. All parties should see that a written agreement is in place before beginning examination of documents. Do not expect an expert to give you a substantial amount of his or her time in study of documents and even give an initial opinion before “the meter is running”.
If you are not confident that a potential expert will be completely honest in reporting time spent on a project, don’t hire him or her! As the project progresses, see that statements are promptly paid. Believe me, to have to press for payment for services can put a damper on one’s enthusiasm as an expert.
There seems to often be a question of how much material should be sent an expert before he/she renders an opinion. Information overload can be a problem, however an attorney should not… must not… withhold any information that might cause the expert to be improperly swayed toward the contacting attorney’s opinion. Better to err on the side of sending too much material than too little. The good expert will not have to initially read word for word every document sent in order to form initial opinions.
It is recommended that an expert first be engaged as a consultant and let the relationship evolve into the declaration as an expert witness.
Be sure the expert is aware of what is discoverable, and understands how to handle attorney contacts, retain or discard files, and related matters. Make every effort to develop a relationship with the expert that facilitates a comfortable exchange of thoughts and ideas.
Over the last couple of decades during which I have had the privilege of working with many brilliant and well qualified attorneys, it is apparent that most any lawyer can be helped by the experience, professional training and “contacts” of an individual within any specialized and highly technical industry, such as insurance
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Note: Information in these blogs is not intended to replace any legal or financial professional information.