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About expert witnesses

An expert witness (expert) is a person with scientific, medical, technical or other specialised knowledge based on training, study or experience. Some examples of experts include doctors and engineers.

Their role is to provide independent and unbiased opinions about the case based on their specialised knowledge. If you call an expert, you will need to ask questions regarding their qualifications and experience as an expert in the field.

The concurrent expert evidence procedure

The concurrent expert evidence procedure allows expert evidence to be admitted concurrently rather than sequentially.

If a trial uses concurrent expert evidence, each party's expert will:

  • Give evidence concurrently in each other's presence.
  • Comment on each other’s opinion at the same time.

The judge and the parties (or their lawyers) involved in the civil case can also ask questions to each expert witnesses within the same session.

When it applies

All parties must mutually consent to the use of the concurrent expert evidence procedure.

Factors the court may consider before deciding if the procedure should be used include:

  • The number, nature and complexity of the issues which are or will be the subject of the expert evidence.
  • The importance of the expert issues to the case as a whole.
  • The number of experts, their areas of expertise and their respective levels of expertise.
  • The extent to which the use of the procedure is likely to assist in clarifying or understanding the expert issues and save time or costs at the hearing.

How to request

Parties who wish to use the concurrent expert evidence procedure should inform the court during the pre-trial conference (PTC).

The use of the procedure is subject to the approval of the court after assessing the suitability of the procedure for the civil case.

Concurrent evidence sessions

In general, subject to the directions of the court, the concurrent evidence session will take place after all the other witnesses have given evidence during the civil trial.

Order of proceedings

At the start of the concurrent evidence session, the experts will be sworn in together. In general, the disputed expert issues will then be dealt with, one issue at a time, as follows:

  1. Each expert will be asked, in turn, to give their opinions on a disputed expert issue. They will next be invited to comment on the other expert’s opinion.
  2. The defendant or their lawyers will cross-examine the plaintiff’s expert, followed by a re-examination by the plaintiff or their lawyers.
  3. The plaintiff or their lawyers will then cross-examine the defendant’s expert, followed by a re-examination by the defendant or their lawyers.
  4. At the end of the discussion, each expert will make their concluding remarks on the expert issue.
  5. The process is repeated for the next expert issue until all the expert issues have been covered.

The judge may ask questions of either expert at any point in time.

Differences from the conventional examination process

Refer to the following table to find out how a concurrent evidence session is generally different from the conventional expert witness examination process during a civil trial.

 

Conventional expert examination

Concurrent expert evidence

The sequence of experts giving evidence

Experts give evidence separately and sequentially.

Experts give evidence at the same time.

The time gap between evidence of experts

A potential time gap between the plaintiff's and the defendant's experts giving evidence.

This is because all the plaintiff’s witnesses (including their expert) will have to give their evidence first before the defendant’s witnesses (including the expert) give their evidence.

Little or no time gap between experts’ evidence.

Experts will give evidence together, whether or not the party before has closed their case.

Giving evidence in the presence of the opposing party's expert

Experts from either party may not be present in the trial at the same time, unless permitted by the court.

Both experts will be present in court, and will hear first-hand what the other expert has said.

Interaction between experts

Does not normally happen.

Experts can interact and discuss or clarify differences in opinions immediately.

Submission of expert reports

Each party's expert normally prepare and submit separate reports.

A joint expert report detailing the agreed expert issues, the non-agreed expert issues and the experts’ reasons for the areas of disagreement may be directed by the court to be prepared.

Need help?

The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.

Find out more

Resources

Legislation associated with this topic includes Order 40A Rule 6 of the Rules of Court.

Refer to:


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