What Does An Expert Need to Know When Preparing a Report For a Court Case?
An Expert Witness Report Should Follow Style, Format, and Content, As Proper For a Court Proceeding. A Legal Representative Can Assist and Guide the Expert With the Crafting of a Proper Expert Witness Report; However, the Legal Representative Must Refrain From Influencing the Views and Opinions Expressed Within the Expert Opinion Report.
Understanding the Requirements When Preparing An Expert Witness Report Document For Court Litigation Purposes
Quality expert reports can make or break a civil litigation case; and accordingly, errors or omissions within an expert report, or in the manner of selecting an expert or in the manner of introducing an expert may preclude the expert report from evidence and preclude the opinion of the expert from testimony, thus placing the legal case in jeopardy.
Quality Expert Reports
Communicate Clearly and Effectively
Before the work of preparing a report begins, the expert should obtain a clear and concise understanding of the scope of detail required within the report by communicating directly with the lawyer or paralegal who is seeking the report from the expert; whereas, depending on the nature of the litigation, the required statements within the report may vary between just a general summary expert viewpoint or a highly detailed expert opinion. Failing to conduct this review may result in the expert wasting the effort of preparing an excessively detailed report or useless preparing an insufficient report; and whereas both possibilities may result in a waste of time, such is also a waste of money.
A proper expert report includes, and properly references, the evidence documents that support the expert opinions and conclusions. The evidence documents can, and should, include pictures, study data, testing results, among other details, all provided as attached appendices or schedules. A bibliography referencing any authoritative documents or studies that are used to support opinions and conclusions should also be included.
An expert report should express opinions clearly and concisely while being easy to read in an organized and professional layout with spelling, grammar, and punctuation, carefully reviewed for correctness. The expert report should be written with a vernacular and tone that is consistent with the language of the intended audience whereas, for example, differences may be required for legal cases heard by a judge versus legal cases heard by a jury; and accordingly, language should remain within the understanding of the average layperson while avoiding belittlement of judges, lawyers, and other experts. Reports should be careful to limit the use of industry specific jargon or abbreviations known only to those with expertise within the relevant field; and, where industry jargon or abbreviations are necessary, a reference table or key to provide definitions should be provided within the report.
- Use professional letterhead;
- Use a cover page as well as an index or table of contents;
- Use a curriculum vitae or resume to summarize the qualifications and credentials that confirm that the expert is genuinely an expert;
- Use an introduction page to outline when, and from whom, the report was requested;
- Use 12-point font and double spacing;
- Use headings;
- Use short, concise paragraphs;
- Use a unique reference number for each page, table, chart, and appendix;
- Use a definitions page or section to define technical language and industry specific jargon or abbreviations; and
- Use an upfront summary page to outline final conclusions or opinions.
Things to Avoid
A biased or slanted expert report can be disastrous – and should be! The expert is expected to provide opinion as a friend of the court for the primary purpose of assisting the court in the truth finding effort. The expert, while having an opinion that may favour one litigant over another, must base the opinion on authentic reasons rather than as friend of a litigant.
- Avoid absolute wording and phrasing;
- Avoid words that appear as hedging or guessing;
- Avoid critical commentary regarding credibility of other experts;
- Avoid a scientific and clinical tone by keeping the tone friendly and personable;
- Avoid going into details beyond the purpose of the report;
- Avoid unnecessary adjectives or superlatives.
The expert preparing an opinion report must remain attentive to the balance required when obtaining input from a legal representative whereas the lawyer or paralegal seeking the report will best understand the factual concerns and legal issues that relate to why the report is needed and can explain the desired scope; however, the findings and opinions as stated within the report must always remain the genuine unslanted view of the expert as author of the report.