Types of Expert Witnesses
I am often asked who is qualified to become an expert witness. Many qualified people never consider getting into expert witnessing work because “they are not a doctor.” Others may think that their area of expertise is too narrow. Let’s debunk both of these common misconceptions.
First of all, you don’t need to be a PhD, MD or rocket scientist to be an expert witness. According to Federal Rule of Evidence 702 “A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion.” Note the conjunction “or.” A witness can be qualified solely by experience, skill, or knowledge. Doctoral level education is neither a legal nor a practical requirement.
We have trained all types of expert witnesses who do not have doctoral degrees and who are very successful because of their knowledge, skill, or experience. In fact, of the expert witnesses we have trained, probably less than half have a doctoral level education. Many types of expert witnesses that we train (arborist, mechanic, accident reconstructionist) often have no college degree at all. In fact, one of the sharpest and most successful expert witnesses we have worked with is a computer expert with no college education whatsoever.
Second, many of the most successful expert witnesses operate in a narrow niche. Niche expert witnesses actually tend to be more successful since they have less competition. As someone who focuses in a sub area of expertise, the niche expert witness will tend to be more knowledgeable and more in demand by litigators. Many types of expert witnesses that we train operate in a niche or sub niche and are very successful doing so. For example:
- An automotive engineer specializing in automotive glass
- A geriatric psychiatrist focusing on will contests
- A surgeon focusing on operating room fires
- An economist focusing on patent damages
- A neuropsychologist focusing on carbon monoxide poisoning
- An electrical engineer focusing on mobile communications patents
- A civil engineer focusing on hurricane damages.
The bottom line is that you should not be discouraged from getting into expert witness work if you don’t have a doctoral degree. Many wildly successful expert witnesses don’t have this level of education and it is not required in law or practice. Neither should you be discouraged from getting into expert witness work if your area of expertise is narrow. There are all types of expert witnesses out there. Some of the most successful expert witnesses operate in a niche, and this is often an advantage, not a disadvantage.
Click here for SEAK’s Expert Witness Directory