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Why You Should NEVER Trust Your Expert

No one cares about your case more than you.  You work night and day on the case and you pray that your hard work will ultimately pay off with a big settlement or verdict.  You’ve hired the best experts and they are ready for trial.

                                             A Simple, Irrefutable Fact: Experts are Often Wrong

As you get closer to trial, you realize that something just doesn’t add up in your economist’s projections of lost earnings.  Perhaps the economist used the wrong rate for personal consumption in a wrongful death case, or the expert did not use the correct methodology for projecting future economic losses.  Now you’re scrambling to fix the mess and when you ask the economist about his mistake, the economist scratches his head and meekly responds, “I’m not a lawyer—I didn’t know I was supposed to do it that way.”

You feel like you’ve been hit in the head with a brick because you assumed the economist knew what he was supposed to do. But the economist is right—you’re the lawyer and you take responsibility for everything in your case, including screw-ups by the experts. YOU SHOULD NEVER ASSUME THAT YOUR EXPERT KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING.

                                                           How to Avoid Mistakes by Your Experts

Most lawyers make the mistake of assuming that your expert knows what he’s doing.  When you receive the economist’s report, you tell your secretary to serve the report upon defense counsel and you forget about it. Big mistake!

From the moment you receive the expert’s report, it must be critically evaluated for mistakes. You have to make sure you’ve looked at the report from the defendants’ counsel’s point of view:

  • Did the economist use the correct rate for the decedent’s personal consumption in a wrongful death case?
  • Did the economist project future economic losses using the correct methodology under the law?
  • Did the economist project the correct # of years for the work-life expectancy for the injured plaintiff?

Go through the expert’s report with a fine-tooth comb because there will almost always be mistakes in the expert’s report.  Once you’ve evaluated the expert’s report (just as a defense lawyer would), you need to call the expert and fix the mistakes. You’ve paid the expert a handsome fee and it’s your job to make sure the methodology and opinions are rock solid.

                                                           Fixing the Expert’s Mistakes…Before Trial

Most lawyers just assume the expert knows what’s he’s doing and blame the expert when the mistakes are raised for the first time at trial.  Make no mistake–these mistakes are not the expert’s fault. You hired the expert and if the expert screwed up, there is only one person to blame: YOU.



photo credit: An Official in the Atchison County Courthouse in Atchison Kansas, Stands in the Building’s Courtroom…06/1974 via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.