Using a Visual Exhibits to Bolster Expert Testimony

Personal Injury Lawyer

As every trial lawyer has learned, often the most qualified and conscientious expert witness can make less than ideal trial witnesses.  Even the most qualified experts, acclaimed subject matter experts in their chosen field, often encounter difficulty in communicating complex concepts in manner comprehensible to lay jurors.  One effective mechanism to help such experts is to use visual exhibits to help translate their testimony into more easily digestible material. 

When developing exhibits for use with experts, here are several practical suggestions:

  • Consult with the expert during exhibit development. involve the expert witness in development of exhibits you expect him to use at trial. Furthermore, the expert should at least be aware of related exhibits even if he will not be the one using them.
  • Develop a visual strategy for trial and make sure your experts’ exhibits fit into that strategy. Be sure the expert understands the key words and images that are central to the strategy. Teach the expert to use the central terms and images in his testimony if possible.
  • Jurors have limited attention spans particularly when they are confronted with complex, technical information. Jurors do not want all the details. They want enough information to understand the issues and the expert’s positions on them. Keep the testimony as short as possible while conveying all the elements necessary from the testifying witness.
  • Simple exhibits are the best exhibits. Remember, the purpose of expert testimony is to assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue. Experts often deal with complicated matters. In order for the jury to understand the meaning of the testimony, you must develop exhibits that convey the information in a simple straightforward way.
  • Circulate exhibits to the jury if possible and appropriate. Your expert should always present evidence in as many ways as possible: seeing, hearing and touching. Multiple channels of evidence presentation dramatically improves memory retention.
  • Research shows jurors react more positively to exhibits and visual aids that are big, colorful, easy to understand, and have a clear message. Your expert’s exhibits should be consistently labeled or color-coded if possible.
  • The time an exhibit is exposed to the jury is a strategic decision. There are times you finish with an exhibit and it needs to be put away, taken down, turned around, or covered to the jury cannot focus on it. Once the expert has finished within the exhibit, it is usually wise to remove the exhibit and the jury will focus on the testimony of the expert instead of the exhibit. That is not always the case, but it is usually true.

In sum, visual exhibits, especially those created with an eye toward the expert’s trial testimony, can be a vital means to render an expert’s testimony comprehensible to a juror, and make his or her testimony fully resonant.  If you have questions about a personal injury case, contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Arlington, VA, like the Law Offices of Ryan Quinn, PLLC, to get more information.