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When to use the services of an expert witness?

For some time now, there has been talk of a shortage of expert witnesses in the judiciary and even a further decline in their number. Why is this the case, what can a court expert be useful for us and who can possibly replace them?

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Since last year, the conditions for expert witnesses have become stricter. They have to comply with new rules, such as compulsory insurance or the use of data boxes. A third of the experts have not yet signed up for these at all. In addition, more than a thousand experts returned their stamps last year and there is now a shortage of experts in many fields. This is particularly the case in the healthcare sector.

An expert witness (or expert for short) is not an employee of the court, as it might appear at first sight. It is an expert in a particular field (e.g. healthcare, automotive, construction) who may be hired to provide a particular expertise or opinion, both for the court and for other institutions or private parties.

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The authorisation to practice as an expert is obtained by registration in the list of experts, where individual experts are registered for a specific field, branch and specialisation and which is maintained by the Ministry of Justice. The status of an expert always relates to the scope of his or her expert authorisation and if an expert performs an expert act in a field, branch or specialisation in which he or she is not registered, he or she will not be considered an expert for the purposes of that act. Expert reports may also be requested from expert bureaux or expert institutes. If no registered expert is available for a particular field, a person not registered in the list of experts may be appointed as an expert on a one-off basis.

The services of an expert will typically be requested by the court if an expert opinion is required to assess the case. Experts in psychology, psychiatry or sexology are probably the most frequently encountered in the media, particularly in the investigation of various violent crimes, where it is necessary to examine the offender in this respect or to determine whether treatment or protective custody has served its purpose. Experts in the field of criminology and criminalisticsare also involved in criminal proceedings.

When can an expert be useful?

Of course, it is not only offenders who come into contact with forensic experts. On the contrary, it is in everyday life that it pays to use their services. You will certainly not make a mistake when you contact him when selling or buying a property. This is especially true when buying a house, when the preparation of an expert opinion is more than advisable, for several reasons.

An appraisal examines a property in more depth than a market appraisal. An appraisal that can only be prepared by a court-appointed expert will examine the technical condition in more detail, which is certainly desirable, especially for older properties.

Tip: Selling an older house has its own specifics. One of them is the recommended use of an expert. You can find out which are the others in our article.

Use an expert opinion to make a claim

Another typical example is an unacknowledged claim. You complain about an expensive pair of shoes that have broken down after six months, but the retailer doesn’t accept your claim, saying you have used the product in the wrong way. If you are really sure that the fault is not yours, it is worth contacting a forensic expert. He or she will prepare an expert report to confirm (or refute) your opinion. You will have to pay for it, but if it is in your favour, it can be used as evidence that your claim was wrongly rejected.

But sometimes even this is not enough to succeed and you have no choice but to go to court. If you win, you will of course recover the costs of the report and the court proceedings. Theoretically, such a procedure can be worthwhile even for a product costing several hundred, but you should still consider whether the investment is worthwhile.

Tip: If your legitimate claim is not accepted, defend yourself. Check out the other tips we’ve written for you on this topic.

If you are looking for an expert in a particular field, first check the list of experts on the Ministry of Justice website. Simply select each field and the county in which you are looking for an expert. You will then be taken directly to the name and contact details of the expert.
If you don’t feel comfortable discussing the details of your private life, such as the price of real estate, with a stranger, then you can rest easy. Appraisers have a duty of confidentiality when carrying out their work. Should they make a mistake in their work, then they are liable for the damage caused and therefore they are also obliged to be insured.

How does an expert witness work?

If a court or other public authority asks them to prepare an expert report, they are obliged to do so. He or she charges a so-called expert fee for his or her work. This is the expert’s remuneration, as well as reimbursement of expenses and compensation for lost time, including travel time. Currently, the maximum hourly rate for an expert is CZK 450. When working on assignments for private persons, the arrangement is then by agreement. The expert should work alone, but may engage a consultant in justified cases. If there is a suspicion of bias on the part of the expert and this is confirmed, the court or other public authority should decide to exclude the expert.

If it turns out that the expert has given false information and the report has been distorted, he or she is, of course, liable to sanctions. Notorious in this respect was, for example, the Kramný case, in which not only the murderer himself was convicted, but later the expert witnesses were also sentenced to two years’ imprisonment suspended for two years and a five-year ban. According to the court, they committed perjury and false expert opinion.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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