A judicial expert, professional witness or expert witness is a witness with the skill, experience and education to have specialized knowledge in a particular subject.
An expert witness has necessary scientific or technical expertise that enables them to offer a specialized opinion as evidence in a court of law. The person’s opinion almost always pertains to evidence or facts within their scope of expertise. This is called an expert opinion.
An expert witness may also be asked to deliver expert evidence about facts from their area of knowledge.
The legal basis for expert witness testimony comes from Scots Law, Davie v Magistrates of Edinburgh (1953). It states that where an expert witness has specialized skills or knowledge in a subject being examined by the court, and that person has been called to court to elaborate on that area for the court, the witness may give evidence of his opinion on their area of expertise.
In addition, according to Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, used in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharma and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, a qualified witness, deemed an expert by skill, knowledge or experience, can testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
- The expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help The trier of fact to understand the evidence or determine a fact
- The testimony is based on sufficient facts or data
- The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods
- The expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case
Prior to the Federal Rules of Evidence and Rule 702, general acceptance was used. Frye made ‘general acceptance’ the exclusive test for admitting expert testimony. In the case Frye v. United States, it was discussed whether or not general acceptance can be admitted as evidence. As a result, the D.C. Circuit held that evidence could be admitted in court only if “the thing from which the deduction is made” is “sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.”
Helfrich-Associates is often called on to be a construction or engineering expert witness. We are often asked to consult on issues involving soil, civil and structural design as well as construction, maintenance, construction defects, and destructive testing. We have been accepted as an expert in both municipal and Federal courts in California and Nevada.
We often provide reports that address existing construction and engineering conditions, for mediations, depositions, and trials. Our reports evaluate standard of care issues, and often provide repair scopes and cost estimates. We also testify regarding forensic construction investigations and construction disputes, including those that involve general and specialty licensed (and un-licensed) contractors.