In most car and truck accident cases, the key cross-examination in the case is the defendants' expert witness. The at-fault driver's cross-examination can also be critical in some cases even if there is not a liability dispute.Crossing Defense Experts
Historically, our firm has focused on fully exploring expert bias on cross-examinations in auto tort cases. There is low hanging fruit there. The typical auto tort case we take to trial involves an expert battle between our experts, who are usually the treating doctors, and the defense doctors who make an obscene living testifying for the same insurance companies over and over.
To do an adequate financial bias cross-examination of an expert, you can not long rely on the expert's say, as to how much money the expert makes. They tend to have selective amnesia, they obfuscate the numbers, and sometimes they downright lie about how much money there are getting paid to do what is usually exclusively defense-oriented legal work. You need to have financial documents to figure out exactly how much money the expert makes testifying in legal cases and how much money they have received from the specific law firm or insurance company that is defending the case.
Elsewhere on this website, we take you on the exact path that we fight to get the expert's financial records; which we use to cross-examine the witness in a deposition and at trial. We have gone to Maryland's highest court to get our battle plan approved. Expert financial bias is low hanging fruit -- you just need to put the time in to harvest it.
But there is a more fertile ground to cross an expert witness. Jurors sometimes sluff off bias, thinking that it is a game and this must be the way the game is played. What they will not give any expert a pass on is not doing the things that should be done before rendering an opinion. If the expert took a shortcut and will admit to that shortcut, that jury is likely to discount or ignore that expert's opinion.
It is incumbent upon the plaintiff's attorney to determine what steps the expert skipped or ignored in reaching the expert's opinions and convey this to the jury during cross. This tactic dovetails beautifully with the financial bias cross, because it sends a consistent theme to the jury: this expert cannot be trusted.
One final thought on controlling the witness during cross-examination. Starting in moot court, law students are taught the key to controlling the witness. This advice is important. An expert will run over you if you do not maintain control of the testimony. But the idea of "control" does not mean trying to overtly dominate the witness in an aggressive way that turns off the jury and closes down the witness. The best lawyers can aggressively cross a witness while still treating the witness respectfully and with control, with leading questions that do not project hostility.