What a Lawyer Should Look for in a Forensic Accounting Expert Witness (Part 1 of 3)

Natalie Burchfiel

During legal proceedings, there often arise analyses of situations, background, or other detailed information regarding a case that the average person would simply not know much about.  When someone is shot in a suspicious manner and there were no witnesses, a ballistics expert may be called in as an expert witness to rule out some scenarios based on how the bullet entered the body, or help confirm the weapon used by identifying specific bullet size or material it was made of or coated with.  In the case of commercial fraud, a forensic accounting expert could be just the witness needed to explain the complexities of how computer programs, accounting variances, etc. could have been manipulated to allow fraud to pass through a company’s system.

What Every Expert Witness Needs to Know

The Federal Rules of Evidence cover both criminal and civil US Court proceedings, and were designed and are amended to ensure fairness in judicial administration, reduce or eliminate unjustifiable delay and expense, and promote the growth and development of the law of evidence so that truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly resolved.  As these rules apply to expert witnesses in any field, who may serve to primarily “promote the growth and development of the law of evidence,” the potential forensic accounting expert witness should keep the following in mind the following requirements:

  • Opinions must be disclosed in an oral or written report.
  • The basis for all opinions must be identified.
  • The report must include a list of information that was considered in forming the opinions and exhibits used as supporting documentation for the opinions.
  • Qualifications including articles written for publication and history of expert witness testimony must be listed.

In many trials, including those involving fraud, there may be forensic accounting expert witnesses brought by both sides of the case.  Representing the actual “innocent” party in the case is not a guarantee that the expert witness for the opposition cannot hurt your case.  The next part of this series will delve further into the skills and background a forensic accounting expert witness may bring to the table.

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