Types of Expert Witnesses
Expert witnesses can make or break a case. Making sure you have the right type of expert, plus the right type of specialist within that expert category is critical to making sure your entire case strategy comes across as knowledgeable and competent. Here are the four major types of expert witnesses.
These are the most numerous of all the different types of expert witnesses. In many instances, they're the rock stars of medical malpractice, violent crime, and accident cases. A medical expert witness is usually a doctor, but also could be a specialist in the medical field, like a nurse, medical technician, or physician’s assistant. In many cases, the medical expert witness doctor will be a Medical Examiner and they will testify regarding the cause of a death or the factors that contributed to that death. In other cases, they will be specialized, as in a specialist medical witness in dental surgery or science.
Forensic expert witnesses can be medical expert witnesses but not necessarily. A forensic expert witness specializes in matters pertaining to criminal acts and law. They can be ballistic experts to chemists, biologists, blood spatter analysts, psychologists, and criminal behavior experts. They usually help set the environment and logistics of a crime scene. For example, they may testify how certain pieces of evidence indicate a particular crime was committed. In many cases, they're witnesses for the prosecution, but can be used to chip away at a prosecution’s case.
These expert witnesses specialize in financial aspects of cases. They can be used to testify regarding forensic accounting findings, white collar crime, fraud, tax evasion, and financial crimes, to name just a few. Financial expert witnesses are almost always used in white collar criminal trials.
Mental Health expert witnesses are very similar to a medical expert witness, except they generally are only used to establish the mental fitness of a defendant. They can be used to establish whether the defendant understood their actions, is clinically or criminally insane, is of sound mind as it pertains to wills and any other legal situation that requires an individual’s mental state be evaluated and verified.
The vocational expert witness is an expert witness that testifies in Social Security disability benefits appeals hearings. Specifically, they render an opinion as to whether the person appealing a disability benefit ruling is capable of working. Their opinion usually is offered to bolster the case of the Social Security Administration.
Expert witnesses range from the more common medical expert witness to a more specific expert witnesses, like a forensic auditor. Understanding the type of expert witness you need will help you build the best case possible.