I periodically serve as an expert witness and the experiences have been most revealing. In contrast to fact witnesses, courts generally allow wide latitude for attorneys to challenge and question expert witnesses at depositions and trials.
This is designed to make it easier for attorneys, judges and jurors to evaluate their qualifications, credibility and objectivity. In spite of this, it is not unheard of for people who have serious issues such as prior arrests, terminations for unethical conduct, lack of adequate credentials and a lack of relevant experience to be retained as expert witnesses.
While there are fortunately many well qualified and highly credible expert witnesses who are men and women of integrity, it can sometimes be difficult for busy attorneys and insurance personnel to sort out the best from those who are questionable in any particular field of expertise. As one example, I worked a school homicide case that ended badly for the school district after one of their expert witnesses was suddenly withdrawn by the district's legal counsel. He was withdrawn after opposing counsel announced that she intended to viperously challenge the expert's qualifications and integrity at deposition. Though the expert had previously served as a school safety expert witness, has appeared as an expert on national news programs, worked in the field for many years and often shows up internet searches, this consultant has also worked diligently to earn a poor reputation in the field of school safety.
As it is often not allowable to replace an expert witness who is disqualified or withdrawn, this can be a serious problem for legal counsel. In this instance, the suit was quickly settled soon after the expert was withdrawn.
Veteran pupil transportation professionals often know who the top safety experts in their field are. This is important whether the safety issues concern mechanical systems, driver training, security, emergency preparedness or any other safety – related litigation. If your organization is litigated, it can be in your best interest to recommend the people in the field that you and your colleagues trust. This type of recommendation is usually much appreciated by attorneys and insurance carriers who have a vested interest in retaining qualified and credible experts. As the pupil transportation field has many such gifted experts, it is often easy for practitioners to identify and recommend them.