Expert witness services are services provided to attorneys and participants in a legal case. An expert witness who provides services testifies in either a criminal or civil case in order to assist the plaintiff or defendant in arguing for a particular point. He or she can help reconstruct events that occurred or can help explain events in order to assist one party in proving his case in a trial.
Depending on the type of trial or issue in question, expert witness services can take many forms. For example, if a defendant is attempting to plead an insanity defense, a psychiatrist would be a vital expert witness. The expert witness in such a situation would provide his professional medical analysis of the patient's mental stability. In other cases, an expert witness may testify as to the extent of a person's injuries in a civil suit. An expert in car accidents may testify to what most likely occurred in a specific collision that is the subject of a civil suit.
Expert witnesses who provide services to attorneys must demonstrate their expertise to the court. Those providing expert witness services can be deemed experts as a result of experience, education, or qualifications. The court will review each witness's background and qualifications before certifying that the witness is qualified to provide expert testimony.
Once he is certified by the court, an expert witness takes the witness stand during the course of a trial. He is questioned by both the attorney who hired him and by the council representing the opposing party. The questioning usually begins by asking the expert witness to recite his qualifications for the judge or the jury.
The expert witness will present his analysis of the situation and share his expert opinion on the issue about which he has been called to testify. He will usually undergo a cross examination during the course of the trial, in which his conclusions — and perhaps his qualifications — are questioned. In most cases, an expert witness cannot make a conclusive determination about what occurred; he can only offer his expert hypothesis regarding the events at issue in the legal case.
Those who provide expert witness services are paid by the client who hired them to testify on his or her behalf. In some cases, a court will pay for expert witness services if the services are required as part of a criminal's legal defense, or if the services are required to prove the prosecution's case. Although an expert witness is paid, he still has a legal obligation to be honest and not be biased in favor of the client who is paying him.