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Why Lawyers Use Expert Witnesses in Civil Lawsuits

Posted by M. Margaret Gonsalves-Sabola | Oct 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

For people new to filing civil lawsuits, the concept of expert witnesses could be completely unfamiliar. Your lawyer may tell you that you need to hire an expert witness to testify about a particular element of your case. Of course, you want to understand why you need this expert witness and why you are paying them.

Lawyers use expert witnesses to evaluate evidence and form opinions about specific parts of civil lawsuits. Sometimes, the success of your case may depend on the answer to a particular scientific or medical question or a technical or financial issue.  In order to prove your case your lawyer will use the evidence of an expert to help the court understand that aspect of the case. In other situations, the expert witness may give their opinion about a critical matter arising in the case.

Experts can provide opinions about DNA and other physical evidence. In civil cases, experts more often focus on issues such as medical malpractice, the degree and extent of personal injury suffered by a party, assessing financial loss, making valuations of property, and determining emotional distress.

For example, a lawyer could hire an accountant to do a financial analysis of a company's books to determine if it had defrauded company shareholders, moved money around to defeat creditor claims, or violated some other law. The expert would review all documents and other evidence provided to him, formulate opinions about the subject for which he was retained, and testify or issue a report about those opinions. At trial, the lawyers for both sides would have an opportunity to question the expert about the opinions and how the expert developed them. The lawyers also could ask questions to show the expert's credibility and experience, or lack thereof.

In a recent case from The Bahamas, each of the parties hired a different expert witness to assess the amounts of damages for lost revenue and profits. (Forbes and Others v. Scotiabank (Bahamas) Ltd., SCCivApp. No. 182 of 2016.) After one of the parties froze the other's bank accounts without warning, the parties were able to settle all liability questions and amounts of damages except for the lost revenue and profits question. The plaintiff and defendant both retained different accountants to assess these amounts.

Of course, the accountants provided differing opinions about the amount of money the plaintiff should receive. The court decided that it would follow the opinion given by the defendant's accountant witness. The plaintiff appealed this decision, no doubt in a desire to have its expert's higher damages assessment prevail. The Court of Appeal determined that the lower court acted properly when it evaluated two competing expert opinions and preferred one to the other. In this way and others, expert witnesses may greatly help parties and the court during civil lawsuits.

To find out more about expert witnesses in The Bahamas, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.

About the Author

M. Margaret Gonsalves-Sabola

M. Margaret Gonsalves-Sabola is a civil and commercial litigation attorney and an accredited civil and commercial mediator. Margaret has over 21 years' experience in legal practice in the United Kingdom, Jamaica and The Bahamas.


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