Preparing for Trial: The OT Expert

Rendering an expert opinion, being regarded as an expert, or even just having enough experience and expertise in your career to qualify for expert status is really a badge of honour.  Yet, that does not mean we jump up and down when called to trial.  Whether this is your first court appearance, or you are now an expert at being an expert, the process can still be nerve-wrecking for some and no, they don’t teach this stuff in OT school!

As an OT company with many experts who have been called to testify, or who have testified, we put together this short list of things to think about that might make the process easier for both first-time expert OT’s, or even seasoned professional.

1.  Have an updated and accurate CV.

Your CV tells a story of your skills, experience and highlights your career. Make sure the story is accurate, up to date, and represents a true picture about you and your background, knowledge and abilities.

2.  Check your Social Media.

Lawyers may use social media as a way to test credibility or to confirm that who you claim to be is truly who you are.  Suspicious selfies and inebriated pictures from the weekend will harm your reputation even before you testify.  If you truly are a professional, behave that way online.

3.  Am I really an expert?

You do not have to have numerous initials behind your name, or decades of experience, to be an expert.  If you have been called then chances are YES you are an expert of your own work and area! Have confidence and speak to what you know.

4.  Those reports that take so long to write do matter.   Every word.

Some things to think about:

  •  Do my words paint an accurate picture of the client?
  •  Could an untrained reader understand them?
  •  Did I do an adequate job of analyzing and reporting data?
  •  What does this data summary mean for the client?
  •  Are the goals I outlined measurable and obtainable?

5.  Analyze and understand the results of your standardized assessments, and be ready to explain that information in terms that an untrained person can understand.  

Be able to describe what all those numbers mean and how they relate to the client and your recommendations.

6.  Be prepared to explain why you recommended specific treatment methods and why they are valid.  

Review the client file and be able to speak to each recommendation and how it will impact the client.

7.  It’s okay to say, “I don’t know”.  

You are not expected to know it all! Be honest and tell the lawyers, judge and / or jury the truth when you do not know the answer to a question.   If you pretend to act like you know something when you don’t, your credibility and testimony will be questioned.

8.  Attorneys are intimidating.

Lawyers argue for a living. They are good at it!  But just remember that at the end of the day, attorneys are just people too doing their job. Both sides are trying to make a case for their client, as you made a case in your own report.  Don’t take it personally and be confident that the information you provide will help bring the case to resolution – one way or another.


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  1. Melodie says:

    I am a new grad (MOT, OTR/L) and wanted to know more about this. Will lawyers approach if there is a case in question or are there active trials seeking our opinion and where might I go to offer my assistance? What is compensation? I live in CA. Thank you!

    1. Erin Ridpath says:

      Thanks for you message! Here in Ontario we are typically given the “heads up” about the potential for trial at the time of our referral. We sign a form indicating we are papered to testify as an expert and that we understand the nature of that responsibility. We are put on notice about the timing of trial typically several months in advance, are prepped days before, but most things settle before trial (for many reasons, mostly though because trials are so time consuming, stressful and expensive for all). We have an “expert” rate we charge our referral source for our time associated with all services including our prep and attendance. I hope that helps!