Expert Testimony

The psychiatrist or psychologist who is asked to prepare a forensic psych evaluation (to examine and evaluate a patient in anticipation of prosecution or litigation) may be recognized by the court to serve as an expert witness. An expert witness–by virtue of education, profession, and experience–is considered to have special knowledge of the subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may legally and officially rely his opinion.

The psychiatrist or psychologist serving as an expert witness may give professional opinions in court about matters that are relevant to his or her expertise.  By contrast, other (non-expert) witnesses usually can only testify about the facts in the case and are not permitted to include their opinions in court testimony.

Expert witnesses are not paid for their testimony.  However, like attorneys and other professionals, they are paid for their time and expertise.  Expert witness testimony may also be used in a personal injury case when the plaintiff makes a case that they suffered undue pain and suffering in a mental or emotional manner.

Expert witnesses must present their credentials and training accurately.  They are subject to cross examination and attacks on their reputation, credibility and opinions.  Expert witnesses must be careful to avoid taking these attacks personally and becoming angry.  Loosing their temper may be exactly what opposing counsel wants them to do.  Court proceedings are usually an adversarial process.  The expert witness must remember that the cross-examining prosecutor or attorney is just doing his/her job.