One of the most significant jobs of expert witnesses is report writing. Experts commonly use “red flag” words which can create problems for the expert at deposition and/or trial. Here are 12 red-flag words which expert witnesses should try to avoid.

  1. “Authoritative” to describe a text. This term has special legal significance that may allow a cross-examining attorney to question the expert about everything in the text.
  2. “Legal” or “legally.” What is and is not legal is usually outside of the area of expertise of most experts.
  3. “Draft.” This term alerts counsel to the existence of draft reports that are usually extremely fertile grounds for cross-examination.
  4. “Work product,” “confidential,” or “privileged.” These terms make it appear as though the expert is trying to hide something.
  5. “Probable” and “possible.” These ambiguous words should be avoided.
  6. “Substantially.” This is another ambiguous word to avoid.
  7. “Obviously” and “clearly.” These terms can be used to make the expert appear patronizing or presumptive.
  8. “Appears,” “presumably,” “supposedly,” “is said,” and “evidently.” These terms imply uncertainty.
  9. “He,” “she,” “it,” “they” and other pronouns. Pronouns are uncertain.  It is best to use a proper noun.
  10. Royal “we.” This can be used to make the expert look silly, pompous, or even dishonest.
  11. “It seems,” “could,” “apparently,” “I believe,” and other hedge words. It is always best to use confident language.
  12. “Complete,” “thorough,” “meticulous,” “exhaustive,” and other such words. These self-serving words will hold the expert and her report to an extremely high standard.