Although attorneys do not like to teach, it is important that your expert understands the rules and guidelines necessary to produce a good report. Here's how to format and include other details when working with a brand-new expert.
The best reports share similar characteristics
The best format for an expert report depends on your specific case facts and the content of what the expert is planning to say. Although many reports are organized similarly, they can come from very diverse disciplines. Many include statements from:
- The expert's assignment
- Research and document review undertaken
- Expert opinions
- Disclaimers if necessary
Many reports also have a section where you can attach documents relevant to the case, such as an expert's resume. These sections of reports for expert witnesses can be compared to the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26,(a)(2)(B), as well as many state civil procedural rules. This is a great outline to use when working with an experienced witness. In each section, tell the expert witness to be concise and direct.
The citation format should be consistent with the industry in which the expert is working
Citations should follow the format of the field in which the expert works. Many experts will use APA style, but AMA or NLM are also common.
The most common formats of citation will be familiar to your expert witness. These formats can be found online from either their respective publishers, or sources like Purdue University's Online Writing Lab.
Format your opinions to maximize clarity
To make sure that the opinions of readers are easily accessible and can be understood, it is important to clearly label them as such:
- Give opinions a separate section, "Opinions".
- Write each opinion in a single sentence, then bold it within your report.
- Use an outline for multiple opinions. This format is very useful when there are multiple opinions.
No matter what the format required, you should focus on being honest, concise and clear
A well-written expert witness document is not always easy to produce. However, it must be clear, concise, and simple. Ask your expert for honesty and simplicity. Remember that attorneys and opposing experts will point out any limitations in a study, method, or approach.
If you represent a plaintiff (or defendant), the format of your report could be different to highlight certain points. The report of a plaintiff expert will be comprehensive, discussing every important issue, and will spend time explaining the flaws in certain approaches. The scope of a report by a defendant expert is narrower, as it focuses on rebuttals to the arguments raised by he plaintiff expert.
In both instances, the expert should define and present their arguments in simple, plain language. You may need to ask the expert for definitions of technical terms.
Discuss length and scope
Does your expert understand the scope of the report and its length that you envision? When you request a detailed report, for example, do you have in mind 15 pages or 150?
Discuss with your expert the details and format requirements before they write anything. A 10 page expert report can have more impact than a lengthy 50-page document.