What Does An Expert Need to Know When Preparing a Report For a Court Case?
Generally, Style and Format Requirements Within An Expert Report Can Be Provided By a Legal Representative. The Legal Representative May Also Assist the Expert In Understanding the Issues Requiring An Opinion; However, the Expressed Views Within An Report Must Be Pure Opining of the Expert.
Understanding the Requirements When Preparing An Expert Witness Report Document For Court Litigation Purposes
Quality expert reports can make or break a civil litigation case; and accordingly, errors or omissions within an expert report, or in the manner of selecting an expert or in the manner of introducing an expert may preclude the expert report from evidence and preclude the opinion of the expert from testimony, thus placing the legal case in jeopardy.
Quality Expert Reports
Communicate Clearly and Effectively
Before starting to craft an expert report, the expert is wise to carefully review the purpose and needs which the report is to serve by discussing such with the lawyer or paralegal who are seeking the report. Depending on the nature of the court case, the report may require broad details or may require a narrow focus. In some circumstances, a brief report is adequate; and in other circumstances a more lengthy report is necessary. Failing to conduct this review may result in the expert wasting the effort of preparing an excessively detailed report or useless preparing an insufficient report; and whereas both possibilities may result in a waste of time, such is also a waste of money.
A proper expert report includes, and properly references, the evidence documents that support the expert opinions and conclusions. The evidence documents can, and should, include pictures, study data, testing results, among other details, all provided as attached appendices or schedules. A bibliography referencing any authoritative documents or studies that are used to support opinions and conclusions should also be included.
The report should read clearly with ease and appear professional and proofed for proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The expert should write in a style directed towards the intended audience, balancing need that the report be understood by an average layperson without belittling highly intelligent judges and lawyers or other experts. Reports should omit or limit industry specific jargon and abbreviations; but, if such is necessary, include definitions within the report.
- Use professional letterhead;
- Use a cover page as well as an index or table of contents;
- Use a curriculum vitae or resume to summarize the qualifications and credentials that confirm that the expert is genuinely an expert;
- Use an introduction page to outline when, and from whom, the report was requested;
- Use 12-point font and double spacing;
- Use headings;
- Use short, concise paragraphs;
- Use a unique reference number for each page, table, chart, and appendix;
- Use a definitions page or section to define technical language and industry specific jargon or abbreviations; and
- Use an upfront summary page to outline final conclusions or opinions.
Things to Avoid
A biased or slanted expert report can be disastrous – and should be! The expert is expected to provide opinion as a friend of the court for the primary purpose of assisting the court in the truth finding effort. The expert, while having an opinion that may favour one litigant over another, must base the opinion on authentic reasons rather than as friend of a litigant.
- Avoid absolute wording and phrasing;
- Avoid words that appear as hedging or guessing;
- Avoid critical commentary regarding credibility of other experts;
- Avoid a scientific and clinical tone by keeping the tone friendly and personable;
- Avoid going into details beyond the purpose of the report;
- Avoid unnecessary adjectives or superlatives.
The expert preparing an opinion report must remain attentive to the balance required when obtaining input from a legal representative whereas the lawyer or paralegal seeking the report will best understand the factual concerns and legal issues that relate to why the report is needed and can explain the desired scope; however, the findings and opinions as stated within the report must always remain the genuine unslanted view of the expert as author of the report.