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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Multidisciplinary Cases and Multiple Experts

The expert may be asked to work with other experts in multidisciplinary cases. Trace analysts, chemists, toxicologists, explosion experts, medical and psychiatric witnesses, and sometimes sociologists or real property appraisers may be called on to assist in presentation of mass disaster cases. The experts must work as a team to gather facts, test evidence, prepare the data, and present the evidence. They must be able to give, take, support and enhance one another's testimony.

In a case involving more than one expert, all expert witnesses on the same side may be called together for a meeting. Each expert should bring results of preliminary studies and fact-gathering efforts for an exchange of data, ideas and theories.

The attorney should open the meeting by explaining that subjects about to be discussed will be part of the attorney's work product and thought process. As such, the materials should not be discoverable by opposing counsel.

This precaution is mandatory, particularly at early stages when various hypotheses are proposed, some of which will be discarded for lack of evidence. If the attorney does not call such a meeting, the expert witness might initiate it.

A collateral benefit of the first meeting is that all experts begin to appreciate reciprocal strengths, weaknesses and information. This is particularly necessary for cases that demand a blend of sciences, skills and expertise. A multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approach to a forensic problem can emerge when a team of experts works together on complicated cases.

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