Once you have a case in litigation, or sometimes even before the suit is filed, your case may require the use of an “expert,” which is defined under Code of Civil Procedure section 720, as a “person is qualified to testify as an expert if he has special knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education sufficient to qualify him as an expert on the subject to which his testimony relates….” Under C.C.P. section 801, an expert may offer testimony that is “[r]elated to a subject that is sufficiently beyond common experience that the opinion of an expert would assist the trier of fact…”
How do you decide if your case requires an expert and, if so, how do you find “the best one.” Initially, if your case involves complex issues that require explaining to the jury—anything from medical testimony to economic evidence, including hundreds of areas of potential expertise—an expert may be necessary to aid your case.
The “best expert” is not necessarily the expert with the most letters after his name, or the expert with the most experience addressing your claim. The best expert may not be the one with the greatest education, certifications, publications or accolades. Nor is the best expert the one with the most testifying or litigation-support experience; in fact, those are factors that might work against him or her.
The best expert for your case is the one that the jury will most likely find acceptable, agreeable, convincing and believable. This means finding an expert who most likely has a professional presence in the community where your case will be tried. The expert who conducts a regular practice or profession, other than testifying for lawyers. That practice should be in, or near, the jurisdiction where your case is going to go to trial.
Further, the expert’s accessibility for questions, consultation and communication with your lawyer creates a far superior resource than the more sought-after, busy or professional expert.