Expert Witness Questions

Expert witnesses should anticipate the types of questions which they will face at deposition and during direct and cross examination.  The types of questions the expert witness is likely to face while testifying at deposition and during direct and cross examination varies greatly.

An expert witness in civil cases is on average 15-20 times more likely to testify at deposition than at trial. This is because the vast majority of civil cases settle prior to trial.  The expert witness questions they can expect to be asked at deposition can vary greatly.  Opposing counsel is given very wide latitude under the rules of civil procedure to ask questions during deposition.  Three helpful resources containing potential and likely deposition questions for expert witnesses are: Depositions: The Comprehensive Guide for Expert Witnesses, How to Prepare Your Expert Witness for Deposition, and SEAK’s free Deposition Preparation Checklist.

During direct examination the expert witness will be questioned by retaining counsel.  The expert is likely to be asked about his qualifications, investigation, and opinions.  The expert witness should also be asked about any problem areas and weaknesses – as these are best dealt with during direct examination.  The expert should know the direct examination questions he is going to be asked before the trial starts since he can go over these when he meets with retaining counsel to prepare to testify.

In contrast to direct examination, the expert witness cannot know for sure the precise questions he will be asked during cross-examination.  A skillful cross-examiner will only ask expert questions that the cross-examiner already knows the answer to.  For example, the cross-examiner typically asks questions that have been covered in the expert witness deposition or the expert witness report.  The questions asked on cross examination will typically be leading ones where the cross examiner tries to tightly control the expert witness and restrict the him to “yes” or “no” responses.  Two helpful resources for expert witnesses preparing for cross-examination are Cross Examination: The Comprehensive Guide or Experts and How to Become a Dangerous Expert Witness.