EXPERT WITNESS CROSS-EXAMINATION
“Learn the step-by-step process of preparation for your cross-examination as an expert witness that will make your testimony creditable.”
By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer
Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING”
Preparation for your cross-examination as an expert witness is essential for the case at hand. Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.” These engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law.
In my experience, most opposing attorneys are civilized. However, some of them can be nasty and abrupt in their cross-examinations. Consider questions like the following, and craft answers that suit your personality and temperament. But listen carefully because a slightly differently worded question may require an entirely different reply. After every question, pause for a beat to give yourself time to form the best answer and to allow your attorney/client time to object. If he or she does object, immediately stop talking until the judge rules. In any case, try not to lose your cool.
Question: How much are you being paid for your testimony?
Answer: My company charges $XXX per hour for my professional services; my testimony is not for sale.
Question: Isn’t it true that you would not be here today if it weren’t for the obscene amount of money that you are being paid?
Answer: Like you, counselor, I am being paid appropriately for my professional services.
Question: Have you ever lied?
Answer: Of course, but never under oath.
Question: Have you ever been wrong?
Answer: Yes, but never on the witness stand.
Question: Did you read all the documents regarding this case?
Answer: I requested all of the relevant documents and read them.
Question: You haven’t told us everything today, have you?
Answer: No, it would be impossible to condense 40 years of professional practice into a few hours.
Question: What is the reputation of the opposing expert?
Answer: I like him. I don’t know what others think of him.
Question: Did you remove any information from your case file?
Answer: I updated my case file, but I didn’t remove any relevant information.
Question: How much money do you make in an average year?
Answer: That is personal and not relevant to these proceedings.
If you are directed by the judge to answer, respond with one of the following:
Answer: My income from litigation related services is about $XX,XXX.
I don’t know; it varies from year to year.
Question: Did your attorney/client tell you what to say today?
Answer: No, of course not. Except to speak slowly and clearly.
Be especially cautious of compound questions, run-on multiple questions, or ones with multiple parts. Ask to have them rephrased, one question at a time. Politely keep asking for clarifications until you understand the question.
Accept only cases in your field of expertise, but don’t necessarily limit them to your area of specialty. My cases as an electrical engineer included electrocutions, fires of suspected electrical origin, standard of care determinations, equipment failures, arc fault accidents, conveyor accidents, lightning strikes, and others. Yours will be different but also interesting and challenging. I wish you much success in the exciting field of forensic engineering.
Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer.
Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights” of Forensic Engineering. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.
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