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Using Record Searches to Vet Expert Witnesses

TransUnion
Blog Post12/21/2020
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Whether you’re a litigator or a criminal lawyer, finding witnesses to support your case is an important part of your job. Credible testimony can be the deciding factor in persuading a jury to side in favor of your client. The key word here is “credible.” Your witness must be honest with their credentials and what they say in court. A witness who is misinformed, lies under oath or misrepresents his background can be counterproductive to your case, as it gives your opponent an opportunity to exploit a weakness and call into question the entirety of your argument.

While there are several types of witnesses, including lay and character witnesses, it is perhaps most crucial to vet expert witnesses as part of your trial preparation. This is because expert testimony can serve as a tent pole that supports all or a portion of a party’s legal position. Should that support be called into question, a risk may arise for the party’s entire argument to collapse and for the case to be lost.

Fortunately, there are public, private and business records that attorneys can tap to vet expert witnesses prior to going to trial. While some of this information can be found by digging through data accessible via internet searches, what you will find online is limited in scope and may not be accurate or current.

Why is it important to vet expert witnesses?

Expert witness testimony can help explain high-level information or confirm complex facts about a party’s legal argument. Common examples of expert witnesses include the use of physicians in medical malpractice claims, engineers in product liability claims, forensic experts in criminal cases, financial experts in matters that require the division of assets (such as divorce and probate proceedings), and securities experts in cases involving white-collar crime, to name just a few. The point is to make sure that whatever type of expert witness you call upon, they are in fact knowledgeable about their purported area of expertise and have the credentials to prove it. 

Failing to vet an expert witness could come at a great cost to your case, one that far outweighs any potential benefits. One construction injury case highlights this point. In this matter, an asphalt truck on a construction site backed up and ran over an employee as he was on his way to a vending machine. The defense – the trucking company – refused to settle the case, alleging that the employee was at fault because he walked behind a moving truck. In support of the defendant’s position, defense counsel hired a safety expert to prove that the plaintiff’s negligence was the cause of his own injuries. The plaintiff’s attorney researched the background of the expert witness and discovered that, based on past depositions, the witness had specifically stated he was not a safety expert. Ultimately, the plaintiff won the case and was awarded several million dollars.

There are numerous other examples of expert witnesses lying about their credentials or having a history of unscrupulous practices. For example, the Florida Board of Medicine revoked a doctor’s license after having served as an expert witness on hundreds of cases. It was shown that the medical professional had misrepresented himself as an emergency medicine board-certified physician, wrongly claimed he went to Johns Hopkins Medical School, and wrongly claimed he was a member of both the Florida Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Clearly, relying on such a witness to support your client’s argument erodes its credibility.

Retaining expert witnesses who falsely represent themselves can be an expensive and embarrassing mistake. Fortunately, there are ways to conduct pre-trial due diligence to vet your experts and feel more confident in the quality of their testimony.

How can records searches help you vet expert witnesses?

One of the greatest tools attorneys have at their disposal when it comes to vetting expert witnesses is a records search using software like TLOxp. Records searches can help you verify the credentials your expert witness claims to possess. They can also provide information relevant to the expert’s personal character.

For example, your most basic searches will retrieve information relevant to confirm your expert witness is who they say they are. This kind of information includes such data as name, aliases, date of birth, addresses and phone numbers as well as formal certifications.

There also are records you can use to verify an expert’s professional credentials. These include the witness’ employment history, current employer, and businesses owned. Using reliable legal technology software, you can also search for and verify professional licenses your witness claims to hold.

If you want to scope out the witness’ personal character to get a sense of their integrity, there are a number of records you can tap. These include arrests and convictions, bankruptcy filings, liens, litigation history, and judgements against them.

Learn how TLOxp can be used to vet expert witnesses

Expert witnesses are only as good as their credibility and their character. You want to make sure your expert witness and their testimony is verifiable. Failure to do so could create an exploitable weakness in your case. Such a weakness could come at a great financial and reputation expense for your practice.

While public, private and business data can be found through a variety of disconnected search methods, this process can be time-consuming and yield unreliable information. Attorneys can use cost-effective technological solutions to expedite the records search process. One such comprehensive point solution is TLOxp. Sign up today to learn how you can use TLOxp to search public, private and business records to vet  expert witnesses.

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