What Goes Into a Properly Prepared Expert Report?
An Expert Witness Report Should Follow Style, Format, and Content, As Proper For a Court Proceeding. A Legal Representative Can Assist and Guide the Expert With the Crafting of a Proper Expert Witness Report; However, the Legal Representative Must Refrain From Influencing the Views and Opinions Expressed Within the Expert Opinion Report.
Understanding the Requirements When Preparing An Expert Witness Report Document For Court Litigation Purposes
Quality expert reports can make or break a civil litigation case; and accordingly, errors or omissions within an expert report, or in the manner of selecting an expert or in the manner of introducing an expert may preclude the expert report from evidence and preclude the opinion of the expert from testimony, thus placing the legal case in jeopardy.
Quality Expert Reports
Communicate Clearly and Effectively
Before the work of preparing a report begins, the expert should obtain a clear and concise understanding of the scope of detail required within the report by communicating directly with the lawyer or paralegal who is seeking the report from the expert; whereas, depending on the nature of the litigation, the required statements within the report may vary between just a general summary expert viewpoint or a highly detailed expert opinion. Failing to conduct this review may result in the expert wasting the effort of preparing an excessively detailed report or useless preparing an insufficient report; and whereas both possibilities may result in a waste of time, such is also a waste of money.
It is also necessary that the supporting evidence documents reviewed by the expert are adequately included and properly referenced. The expert opinion contained within a report should, and perhaps must, refer to supporting evidence documents such as pictures or testing results, among other things, attached as appendices or schedules. Additionally, a bibliography to summarize any authoritative documents used for research should be included.
The report should read clearly with ease and appear professional and proofed for proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The expert should write in a style directed towards the intended audience, balancing need that the report be understood by an average layperson without belittling highly intelligent judges and lawyers or other experts. Reports should omit or limit industry specific jargon and abbreviations; but, if such is necessary, include definitions within the report.
- Use professional letterhead;
- Use a cover page as well as an index or table of contents;
- Use a curriculum vitae or resume to summarize the qualifications and credentials that confirm that the expert is genuinely an expert;
- Use an introduction page to outline when, and from whom, the report was requested;
- Use 12-point font and double spacing;
- Use headings;
- Use short, concise paragraphs;
- Use a unique reference number for each page, table, chart, and appendix;
- Use a definitions page or section to define technical language and industry specific jargon or abbreviations; and
- Use an upfront summary page to outline final conclusions or opinions.
Things to Avoid
A biased or slanted expert report can be disastrous – and should be! The expert is expected to provide opinion as a friend of the court for the primary purpose of assisting the court in the truth finding effort. The expert, while having an opinion that may favour one litigant over another, must base the opinion on authentic reasons rather than as friend of a litigant.
- Avoid absolute wording and phrasing;
- Avoid words that appear as hedging or guessing;
- Avoid critical commentary regarding credibility of other experts;
- Avoid a scientific and clinical tone by keeping the tone friendly and personable;
- Avoid going into details beyond the purpose of the report;
- Avoid unnecessary adjectives or superlatives.
The expert preparing an opinion report must remain attentive to the balance required when obtaining input from a legal representative whereas the lawyer or paralegal seeking the report will best understand the factual concerns and legal issues that relate to why the report is needed and can explain the desired scope; however, the findings and opinions as stated within the report must always remain the genuine unslanted view of the expert as author of the report.