What is an Insurance Expert Witness?

Mary McMahon

An insurance expert witness is someone with extensive experience in and knowledge of the insurance industry who is called to the witness stand to provide information about aspects of a case which involve insurance. Expert witnesses can be used to provide judge and jury with information which can be used to deepen understanding of the case and the underlying issues. Conventionally, when someone is called as an expert witness, the legal team which calls the witness provides compensation because the witness is providing professional expertise and assistance, rather than simply being asked to testify about the events surrounding the crime like a conventional witness.

An expert witness offers expert advice in court.
An expert witness offers expert advice in court.

When seeking an expert witness, lawyers look for people with reliability and experience, and if they can find an insurance expert witness with a proved track record in court, this is preferred. A good expert witness has years of experience in the industry, or is involved in the academic study of insurance and the insurance industry. Ideally, she or he has been published in multiple settings, and may have other credentials which can be used to establish credibility on the stand.

When seeking an expert witness, lawyers look for for people with reliability and experience.
When seeking an expert witness, lawyers look for for people with reliability and experience.

One reason to call an insurance expert witness is simply to have someone on the stand to explain the facts behind an insurance-related matter. The witness can explain how the industry works, and which regulations apply to the case. The witness may also be asked to offer a professional opinion on the situation. For example, if someone is contending that she or he was unfairly dropped from an insurance policy, the insurance expert witness can testify about the conditions under which people can be dropped, according to industry standards, and whether or not the person was fairly dropped, in the opinion of the witness.

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The insurance expert witness can explain the processes behind the actions of an insurance company or agent, and can talk about industry standards of behavior and ethics. The insurance expert witness can also provide information about how coverage works, conditions under which coverage may be denied, and the appeals process in place for asking for reconsideration of insurance decisions. All of this information can be used to support one side or the other.

Like other witnesses, an insurance expert witness can be cross examined by opposing counsel. If the testimony has been especially effective, the opposing lawyer may attempt to undermine the credibility of the witness, or to shoot holes in the testimony. For example, the lawyer might remind the jury that the witness is expressing opinions, rather than stating facts, or might call the character of the witness into question. Opposing counsel may also ask about how much compensation the witness received, as juries may read a high compensation as a sign that the witness was “bought”.

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