An expert witness is someone who by virtue of training, skill, education or experience is believed to have knowledge or expertise in a certain subject beyond an average person. This knowledge makes the person eligible to be a witness in a case they otherwise may have no interest in. Expert witnesses are often brought in by legal teams to help the court understand complex matters in more detail.
Experts ranging from doctors to security officers often appear as witnesses. In most cases, they help shine a light on crucial information in a case, as well as assist in winning the influence of the judge or jury.
Similar to any other field of expertise, accounting requires expert witnesses. Accounting often involves complicated financial reporting and concepts. Therefore, it is important to bring in an expert witness who will be able to undo accounting jargon for lawyers, judges, and the jury. Accountants are often viewed as credible and ethical people and their involvement in a case might play a significant role in convincing the jury in a subconscious way.
Why Require an Accountant as an Expert Witness?
Some of the reasons we require accounting expert witnesses depend on the particular case involved. An accountant can be brought in to testify in a case for any of the following reasons:
1.Credentials and Credibility
Credentials for an accountant expert witness, just like credentials for all other expert witnesses, are essential. An expert accountant witness should at least be a certified public accountant (CPA). There may be a variety of certifications that might qualify the witness on accounting, but being a CPA is preferred because CPA is a state-licensed certification. Another important credential for matters of forensic accounting or litigation support is Certified in Forensic Financials (CFF), and only a CPA can earn this credential.
The experience a person has in accounting is also vital as one can draw comparisons from past work. This can also be of great help if an accountant has had past experiences with government contracts, service industries, or small businesses, as these are specialized experiences.
Data presented and explained by an experienced and well-trained CPA will lend to the case.
2. Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Accounting is known for the presentation of data such as the cash flow statement and income statements. These are not terms members of the court may understand. This is where the accountant comes in. They will help in matters such as contract disputes, fraud investigations, accounting, and audits. The interpretation of the numbers on these reports will then be explained in simpler terms for the court.
3. Communicating in Non-Accounting Terms
We have already established that accounting often uses phrases and presentations that are not friendly to a non-accounting audience. However, accountants who have accumulated a lot of experience in different accounting issues are not likely to face the challenges of clarifying these ideas. A good expert witness can explain complicated financial terms and interpretations in layman’s terms, so it is most useful for decision making. This is where experience communicating with small business owners becomes a desirable skill since most are unfamiliar with accounting terms.
4. Litigation Support
Litigation support is a service offered by CPAs. It is a specialized accounting service that helps businesses and attorneys with complex accounting problems such as legal disputes, damage calculations, and fraud. An experienced CPA with the CFF credential is in a position to analyze, report, and testify as an expert witness if needed. This specialization makes a CPA/CFF the ideal expert witness.
When it comes to bringing an expert witness to the stand to testify, it should be someone who is an authority in their field. This same concept applies to accounting – put your trust in a firm that has a proven litigation support track record and will understand your needs.
If you have a question about hiring CJA as an expert witness for your legal needs, contact us.