Lawyers: why your client should hire a subject matter expert

Lawyers: why your client should hire a subject matter expert

Expert witnesses can be the crucial factor that decides the fate of a trial. Their purpose is to provide unbiased opinion on a specialist subject so that a judge or jury can make a more informed decision.

Lawyers will be well-aware of the value an expert witness can bring and if it were up to them, most would not go to court without one. Convincing their clients to hire an expert, however, is another matter. They might be put off by the extra cost or they are simply unaware of the difference expert testimony can make to their trial.

So, what should lawyers tell their clients when they are asked about the benefits of hiring a subject matter expert?

Experience

One thing an expert witness can bring is experience. Depending on the individual, they may have spent decades immersed in a subject that is relevant to a case. When it comes to their specialist subject, they will most likely have seen it all before, whereas it may be completely new to a court.

Experts may even help lawyers to address the issues in their case. Their knowledge of countless previous cases can help them to find errors in the opposing case that may otherwise go unnoticed. Similarly, they know what types of arguments and evidence works best in court.

The fact someone has been recognized as an expert witness also means a judge or jury is more likely to think they know what they are talking about.

Professionalism

Expert witnesses offer a lot more than fact witnesses. Lawyers take risks when they call a fact witness.  Whether it’s buckling under the pressure of cross-examination or coming across as unsympathetic, a lot can go wrong.

Professionals offer clients greater peace of mind. Experts will be articulate and know the best way of making sure they are understood. Having been through cross-examination numerous times, they will be able to breeze through without hurting a lawyer’s case. In short, there are fewer variables with a professional.

Some clients may be worried that the fact they have hired a professional will somehow be used to discredit them in the eyes of the court. On the contrary, a judge or jury is more likely to treat the testimony of someone who has had their expertise affirmed in court on multiple occasions as reliable.

Credibility

Having an expert provide their opinion on the facts of a case can give lawyers a powerful advantage. It is established in case law that an expert witness possesses specialist knowledge that goes beyond the level of a trier of fact. They are called upon to provide unbiased opinion on an issue or evidence that cannot be decided by the court itself.

The testimony an expert witness provides will be more credible to a court than that of a layperson and their opinion will be treated with more gravity. This credibility can often sway opinion in a client’s favour.

In a trial where police procedure is an issue, for instance, a layperson can raise questions about police actions, but an expert in police training will be able to testify that police handling of a situation did or did not meet the required standard.

Value of an expert witness in Criminal impaired-driving cases

An expert witness can play a crucial role in impaired driving cases. Grant Gottgetreu regularly assists in cases where defendants face criminal charges of impaired driving. Grant has an in-depth knowledge of proper police procedure and is qualified in operating a range of approved instruments and approved screening devices.

He can provide valuable information that can be very persuasive in Court. He provides technical assessments as to whether an officer had the grounds to read either of the breath demands. He is also able to give an informed opinion as to whether the proper operational steps were followed leading up to the breath tests, and the reliability of any of those breath test results.

Levelling the playing field in traffic-related cases

In some jurisdictions, certain traffic offences are tried in the same way as civil matters. In British Columbia, Canada, for example, the burden of proof for Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) appeals falls to the defendant. In those cases, it is up to the defendant to prove their innocence, which can be a difficult task for defence lawyers because of the reserve onus placed upon the defendant.

This leaves lawyers with limited options. Often their only choices are to raise issues with police evidence, their equipment or whether they followed correct procedure. Without an expert opinion to the contrary, police evidence is often accepted at face value.

In Traffic Court, Grant has prosecuted thousands of traffic tickets and has intimate knowledge of the essential elements required to prosecute or defend a traffic ticket.  

In this case in Ontario, a judge dismissed a driver’s appeal against a speeding conviction, partially on the grounds that the court had no option but to accept the police officer’s evidence.

The Justice of the Peace stated: “The defence had presented no evidence to challenge the evidence of the reliability of the radar speedmeter device for identifying the speed of a vehicle on the highway.”

A lawyer’s only line of defence might be to hire an expert to raise issues with the prosecution’s evidence. Grant Gottgetreu is regularly called upon to do just that.

Why lawyers should tell their clients about Grant Gottgetreu

Explaining the benefits of an expert witness to a client can be a challenge for lawyers but a worthwhile one. For clients who are still on the fence, we recommend putting it to them in the simplest terms: hiring an expert can drastically improve their chances of success.

If you are searching for subject matter expert specializing in driving-related offences, Grant Gottgetreu is a trusted forensic consultant who is frequently retained for his services in these areas.

He is a retired police corporal whose career spanned nearly three decades. He has specialist knowledge in police training and procedures and he also is a qualified instructor or operator for a variety of approved devices used by the police for speeding and impaired driving enforcement.

Email Grant at gottgetreuconsulting@gmail.com for more information.

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