Legal Nurse Consulting News: Content of the Expert Report
Friday, March 16, 2007
Attorneys who are familiar with utilizing expert witnesses for their cases are familiar with the concept of the expert report. The well-written expert report can be vital to an attorney in support of their case. A poorly written expert report, however, can be detrimental to an attorney?s case. What, then, should an attorney look for in a ?well-written? expert report? What makes an expert report memorable to the court? What expresses the opinions of the expert in a format that attorneys and the court alike will realize the full impact of the material? First and foremost, attorneys must keep in mind that an expert has a duty to the court to be impartial in their opinions no matter which side he or she is working for. The report, therefore, must be impartial in its content as well. The report should be written in a clear and direct manner while avoiding too much technical verbiage. The wording should express the expert?s opinion confidently and should avoid any hint of emotions or defensiveness in the tone. Finally, the report should be written in a very professional manner, with no friendly familiarities, and should be proofread thoroughly to avoid grammatical errors.As for the actual content of the report, this may vary slightly based on the type of report utilized, but there are certain commonalities to all expert reports. The content may be displayed in different orders, according to the writer?s preference, and the commonalities will be discussed here in no particular order. The report, especially if it is lengthy, should have a cover sheet and table of contents. The next item in the report will be a complete list of all documents that the expert reviewed prior to forming their opinion of the case. This list should be organized and comprehensive. The qualifications of the expert are vital to the report, as this will show how valuable the expert?s opinion really is. The qualifications of the expert can be listed in their CV and should include a list of any publications by the expert within the past 10 years or so as well. These publications may help the expert appear more credible, especially if he or she has any articles written years ago that support their current opinion. The expert must list the factual basis for their opinion in their expert report as well. Their opinion must be supported by current and recent research or literature. Any current literature that supports their opinion should be listed in this section. The more literature identified that supports the expert report, the more credible the expert witness will appear. A summary of the expert?s actual opinions will be included in the expert report, and these opinions should be stated strongly and confidently. Each opinion expressed should be accompanied by reasoning that supports the development of that opinion. The opinions should be written clearly and professionally. This section is, of course, the ?meat and potatoes? of the report. It may also be beneficial for the expert to list opinions that are contradictory to theirs and clearly show why these reasons are not accurate. This will immediately undermine the expert witness for the opposite side, if the opinions differ. This is, of course, done very professionally and factually. All opinions should be linked to the factual basis and the supporting literature. At the end of the report, there may also be an expert?s declaration and/or statement of truth in which the expert acknowledges their duties as an expert witness and affirms that their report is impartial and truthful. The expert then signs the report and any relevant appendices are attached at the end. This concludes the content commonly found in an expert report. What the expert report should NOT include are any opinions that are outside of the expert?s area of expertise. The expert should not opine about any topic other than what they are claiming to be an expert in as this can be detrimental to their credibility. The listing of qualifications and literature that supports their area of expertise will be undermined if they stray outside of this area. Certainly, there should not be any opinions of legal matters at all, as most experts are not qualified to opine in any matters of law. If an area of the case falls outside of the expert?s realm, the expert should clearly state this and also state what qualifications would be necessary in order to give an expert opinion on that particular issue. Using these guidelines, a well-written expert report can be a very important addition to a case, and will add credibility to the expert witness? testimony. The savvy attorney would be wise to ensure that the expert witness that is hired for their case is knowledgeable about expert reports and how to professionally write one. Knowing the content of a well-written expert report can also assist an attorney with cross-examination of the expert witness for the other side as well.