As a professional, you may find yourself called to be a witness in court. Your role is vital to establish the facts of a case. This is clearly something to be taken seriously – and that you might require support with.
If you are due to appear in court and need help then you should contact us immediately. Alternatively, read on for our guide on what to expect.
What is a professional witness?
A professional witness will be called on to try to explain the facts of a case. This is in contrast to an expert witness who is asked to give an impartial medical opinion based on their expertise (see below). Professionals will usually receive a non-negotiable fee and can attend multiple types of court, such as:
- Criminal court
- Coroner’s court
- Civil court
- Employment meetings
As a professional witness, you are likely to need to give first hand evidence of the treatment of a patient – explaining notes from their record and offering an explanation of events as you saw them. Patient confidentiality should be protected unless specifically directed by the court.
How to become a professional witness
In order to become a professional witness, you will be called in by court order.
While you may not ever need to be a professional witness, it is possible and this is one of the many reasons why it is important to keep accurate records that you can easily access.
What does a professional witness do?
A professional witness will be questioned by barristers on the facts of a case. You may well find that a simple yes or no answer is fitting and this would be acceptable. You should address all of your answers to a judge, jury or tribunal, whichever is appropriate for your case.
Prepare yourself for questioning that might seem repetitive. Take your time, keep your calm and answer every question as well as you can.
You might be challenged and you could face questions on why treatment was taken and alternatives that were considered, which is why it is important to prepare in advance. You should not be afraid to say when you are not able to answer a question.
What is the difference between an expert witness and a professional witness?
An expert witness is called on to give impartial advice based on their knowledge and experience. They do not have a direct relationship with the patient or case – they attend in order to help clarify a specialist matter before a judge, jury or tribunal.
An expert witness usually has at least 10 years of experience in their field and can have support and training from the Expert Witness Institute.
For more help and support on legal matters, contact the Dental Defence Society.