Expert Witness Reports
When a lawyer asks an expert to write a report, it is usually with some ambivalence. On the one hand, he/she does not want to tip his/her hand prematurely regarding legal strategies. On the other hand, the expert can be an articulate spokesperson for the purpose of educating the trier of fact as to the lawyer’s theory of the case.
In an article in Law & Human Behavior, the authors conducted a study using mock jurors to determine whether the presence and timing of written statements affected jury awards. Written statements did indeed help the jurors to better understand the testimony. They were also more effective in differentiating the relative worthiness of the plaintiff’s claims. The best time to present the statements to the jurors is early in the case.
Ultimately, the authors suggest that these expert statements be kept relatively short, approximately four pages, and relied upon only in cases in which the evidence is complex. Common sense also suggests that jargon should be eliminated. In summary, although a lawyer may question whether it is worth the expense and the potential pitfalls to prepare and submit an expert’s written report, a brief, relevant, and well written statement is particularly useful in complex cases.
Is it the responsibility of the lawyer to insure that the report is written in easy to understand language and is as brief as possible without leaving out anything important
ForsterLee, L., Horowitz, I., Athaide-Victor, E., & Brown, N. (2000). The Bottom Line: The Effect of Written Expert Witness Statements on Juror Verdicts and Information Processing. Law and Human Behavior, 24(2), 259-270.