If you’re humble, you may not think you’re an ‘expert’ in anything – a practitioner perhaps, but definitely not an expert!
However, when it comes to being an expert witness in court, determining whether someone is an expert on a particular topic is crucial.
Here’s what you need to know.
The general rule when it comes to witness testimony is that witnesses can only give evidence about something they directly saw, heard or otherwise perceived.
“I saw Mr Smith take the television” for example, or “I heard Mr Jones scream”.
Generally, as a witness, you must never infer things from your perceptions or offer an opinion.
“I saw Mr Smith take the television, intending to throw it at Mr Jones”, or “I heard Mr Jones scream, probably when he was hit by the television”.
It’s a slight but important distinction, one that comes with a number of exceptions.
One of those exceptions is expert testimony.
An ‘expert’, is able to given an opinion on matters if that opinion is wholly or substantially based on specialised knowledge gained through training, study or experience.
Are you an expert?
Health professionals can either be called to give ‘regular witness testimony’ or ‘expert witness testimony’ or sometimes a combination of both.
It’s important to be careful giving expert testimony that you are only inferring or offering an opinion on something based on your specialist knowledge.
For example, if you’re an AOD counsellor with no experience or training in family violence – offering an opinion on your client’s achievements in therapy is valid expert opinion, but whether your client is a risk of violence is outside your training, study or experience.
You can still be an expert witness, even if:
- Other experts in the field disagree with your conclusions.
- You have relied on another person’s data or work acquired through reading relevant literature and reports or through colleagues.
However, you should never claim to be an expert in something beyond your training, study or experience – or if you’re not able to act objectively.
Expert witnesses are held go a higher standard than regular witnesses, they must ensure their testimony is not given merely to advocate for a particular party and they behave objectively.
360Edge will be running an online two-day workshop on the 7th and 14th July.
Join our clinical expert Paula Ross and legal eagle Jarryd Bartle for this practical workshop specially designed to assist practitioners to get court ready.
Key learning outcomes include:
- Knowing how to write case notes that are both clinically relevant and legally sound
- Describing the different types of courts and how they operate
- Knowing how to respond to a subpoena
- Feeling confident about appearing in court