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What is a Forensic Accounting Expert Witness?

Article Details
  • Written By: Christopher John
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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A forensic accounting expert witness is a person with special knowledge in the area of accounting that qualifies him or her to testify in court and offer expert opinions on accounting issues as long as his testimony will help a jury understand certain evidence. To testify as an expert, a person must qualify as an expert in a particular area. A person may qualify as an expert based on his or her educational experience, life experiences in a particular field, specialized training, or work experience. In the US, the rules concerning expert witness testimony are contained in the Federal Rules of Evidence for Federal Courts and under state rules of evidence, which may vary from federal rules. A forensic accounting expert witness will help a lawyer to investigate a case by examining financial documents and then testifying in court about the information contained in those documents.

A lawyer might need to hire a forensic accounting expert witness to help in certain situations. For instance, a lawyer may not know how to analyze certain types of financial records or lack the knowledge to ask for specific types of financial information. The expert will have this type of knowledge. This will allow him or her to help the lawyer investigate the income or earnings of a business or person. He or she will know how to analyze certain documents and know what types of documents a lawyer should ask to examine.

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A forensic accounting expert witness will have the expertise to uncover hidden income and assets, find errors in financial documents, find accounting malpractice, and identify illegal acts such as fraud or embezzlement. The expert will also know how to trace assets and help to place a value on a business. He or she helps a lawyer prepare a case for trial by advising the lawyer on the types of financial information to obtain from an opposing party. A lawyer does this during the discovery process, which is an opportunity for both sides to gather information from the opposing party.

Understanding financial records and accounting practices are essential for a forensic accounting expert. The additional skill necessary for a person serving as an expert witness is the ability to present testimony to the court and to the jury effectively. This means that he or she must be able to explain complex financial matters in a way that is easy for a layperson to understand. An expert must also know how to withstand attacks from an opposing attorney.

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