Often, a case is multifaceted enough to require more than one expert witness’s testimony. While there are a number of benefits to hiring multiple expert witnesses, the more people involved in a case, the more complex it may become.
While there are a number of reasons an attorney may want to limit the number of expert witnesses involved in a case, there are also numerous benefits to keep in mind.
Developing Credibility. Sometimes an expert witness makes a mistake, rendering their testimony seemingly not credible. If a second expert is on hand to reiterate the point, the first expert may regain some of their credibility. One of the reasons an attorney may hire a multitude of medical experts is to provide a compounding testimony – testimonies that speak to and build upon one another in an aggregating manner. While such a tactic is against the rules of civil procedure, having two or more expert witnesses illuminate and expand upon one another’s testimony in a manner that is disciplinarily-focused is permitted and may help build a strong foundation for an attorney’s case.
Multiple Testimonies. In some cases, an expert witness’s testimony may get thrown out altogether. In such situations, it is prudent to have an expert witness on reserve that can reiterate the points that have been dismissed.
Detailed Explanations. It has been well documented that diverse groups of people understand and learn knowledge in different ways. While the trier of fact may be unable to follow one expert’s testimony, they may be convinced by testimony offered by a second expert witness. Even the best trained and most seasoned expert witness is capable of making mistakes. Therefore, if the scientific aspects of a case are complex it is essential to have a separate expert witness on standby to clarify or expand upon previous testimony.
Cumulative Evidence. While cumulative testimony provides clear grounds for objection to and dismissal of testimony, it may be beneficial to have expert witnesses provide more in-depth testimony that addresses particular elements of a prior expert witness testimony. Often, elements of a testimony may prove either unclear or too limited. Studies have shown that the reiteration of points and arguments tends to convince simply based on its repetition. While an attorney will not want expert witnesses to express the same points, they will want to work with expert witnesses to ensure that there is a stable narrative across the testimonies that they give.
Despite these benefits, an attorney will want to ensure that each expert witness is necessary to a case before hiring them. Calling upon a multitude of expert witnesses can lead to various issues. While these complications should not discourage attorneys from hiring necessary expert witnesses, it is essential to keep these intricacies in mind when moving forward with the hiring process.
Avoid Cumulative Testimony. When hiring expert witnesses, an attorney will want to make sure that their areas of expertise do not overlap. While it may be appealing to call upon multiple medical experts to attest to the cause of an injury, such a redundancy wastes the court’s time and will likely receive an objection from opposing counsel.
Make Sure Testimonies Are Consistent. Because multiple expert witnesses will likely be approaching an attorney’s case from the perspective of their own differing fields, it is important to make sure that the overall narrative of the testimonies remain consistent. Each expert witness will require training and preparation in order to present an attorney’s case in the required manner. Thus, attorneys will want to rely on a specific number of skilled expert witnesses rather than a greater number of less skilled expert witnesses.
Depositions. It is also important to remember that some complications may arise in the case that lead opposing counsel to take depositions. While an attorney utilizing multiple expert witnesses may decide against having one of them testify, opposing counsel is still permitted to use that person’s deposition. An attorney wants to be sure that they will utilize an expert witness before bringing them onto the team.
Communication. One more person involved in the case means another person with whom the attorney and others involved will need to communicate. While an attorney will always want to use great care when communicating with expert witnesses and allowing them to communicate with the client, vigilance is especially necessary in cases involving multiple expert witnesses.
Attorneys will want to make clear from the beginning the means and the topics about which the different parties can communicate. This may mean limiting expert witnesses’ direct communication with the client in order to avoid confusion or inconsistencies between the different experts’ approaches. Finding expert witnesses who can work together is key to assisting with communication, consistency and avoiding cumulative testimony to ensure a successful case. Neeraj Gupta, MD