expert testimony

In Brief: Expert Testimony vs. Lay Testimony

Expert testimony and lay testimony can both be beneficial to have on your side during litigation in court, but what’s the difference between the two types of testimony?

Expert Testimony vs. Lay Testimony

The biggest difference between expert testimony and lay testimony is that expert testimony can include types of information not permitted in lay testimony. Expert testimony is presented to the court by experts in specific fields, such as forensic science or psychology. And because of their expertise, expert witnesses are permitted to provide the court with their opinions about the evidence that’s presented or even about defendants or other persons involved in the trial. Unlike lay witnesses, expert witnesses are also allowed to make inferences and provide conclusions based on their expertise. An expert witness often provides written information to the court in the form of a detailed report, in addition to providing oral testimony to the court in person on the witness stand.

In contrast, lay witnesses are only permitted to give the judge or jury information that they know firsthand. For example, they can testify in court about an incident that they witnessed, and may be asked to report what they saw, heard or experienced. They basically provide the court with facts, without the opportunity to offer their opinion about what they saw, heard or experienced. They are also not typically allowed to draw any conclusions about what they’ve witnessed.

Who Can Serve as an Expert Witness?

There are specific requirements outlined by law that qualify a witness as an expert witness who can give expert testimony, but in the simplest of terms, an expert witness must have expertise in a specific field beyond what a lay person would have. Their expertise must also be relevant in some way to the case being tried.

In addition, expert witnesses must prove that they are qualified and knowledgeable in their profession, via education, specialized training, and experience.

Even if an attorney hires an expert witness to help win a case, that witness must still give unbiased testimony. They are required by law, when under oath, to be truthful and impartial. And they have an overriding duty to the court, which outweighs any obligation they have to either side in a civil or criminal case, regardless of who is paying for their services.

Need Expert Testimony?

Contact OSS today at 281-288-9190 (Ext. 205) or complete our contact form for information on our expert witness and expert testimony services.

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