November 5, 2019 2

Handwriting Expert – 5 Tips To Hiring A Forensic Handwriting Expert

Handwriting Expert – 5 Tips To Hiring A Forensic Handwriting Expert


Hi, my name is Beth Chrisman, and I’m
a court qualified forensic document examiner. Every month, my office gets dozens of phone calls
from attorneys and non-attorneys who have specific questions about how to hire a document
examiner, also known as a handwriting expert. There is a lot of confusion about our career
and this video is created to answer some of those common questions and clarify what we
can and cannot do to assist you in your case. I encourage you to grab a pen and take some
notes about what questions you should ask before you hire them, some practical tips
to make the selection process easier and I’ll reveal some pitfalls to avoid. If you are
an attorney, you are probably already familiar with hiring an expert witness for your case.
You know that if your case goes to trial, the credibility and testimony of your expert
witness can profoundly influence your case. This is why choosing the right expert witness
is important. Most attorneys have worked with expert witnesses at some point in their career,
but most haven’t hired a Forensic Document Examiner. So, let’s begin with your case do
you really need “Forensic Document Examiner”? If your case involves a forged document, a
last will and testament, altered contract, questioned signatures, or you must know where,
when and how a document was created you are looking for a “Forensic Document Examiner”.
This video shows you how to select the right one for your particular case. If you are looking
for someone to tell personality from handwriting or analyze your handwriting for hiring purposes,
you are not looking for a “Forensic Document Examiner”, you are looking for a Graphologist
. But don’t worry, most people don’t realize these are two separate disciplines with totally
different training and applications. It’s a common confusion. You should know a couple
of things before you make your first phone call to your chosen examiner. 1. How many
documents do you need analyzed and an “official opinion” rendered upon? These are your “questioned
documents”. If the case involves handwriting and signatures, you will also need to provide
known exemplars of the person to compare them against. These exemplars are commonly called
“Known Handwriting Samples”. 2. Does your case involve ink testing or paper testing,
or simply the identity of the person who wrote the document? Ink and paper testing often
starts at $6000 and can be very expensive. Most cases involve handwritten items from
which official opinions can be rendered using copies, scans, faxes, or personal inspection
start at under $600 and up. Here are my Top Five Key Tips to hiring the right forensic
handwriting expert. 1. Training Most respected document examiners have completed a 2-year
apprentice program and have some type of formal training such as the International School
of Forensics, 2-Year Distance Learning Program or similar structured curriculum. You can
easily view an expert s training by viewing their C.V. (Curriculum Vitae). Just call their
office or download a copy from their website. 2. Referral / Reputation Look for real client
comments and reviews. If a professional hasn’t posted any positive comments from real clients,
perhaps he doesn’t have any. Look for reviews and pay attention to the reputation of the
document examiner. Does the media call on her when news breaks? Have you seen him on
TV or in the newspaper? Do attorneys hire him over and over again? You should see these
items posted on their website, look for them. 3. Cost. (Do you want to pay flat rate or
hourly rate)? Rates can vary from $125 to $350 per lab hour, so make sure you are clear
on the rate. Most document examiners post these rates on their “RATE SHEET”. Some document
examiners charge you a flat rate based on the number of questioned documents that need
to be examined. This is a great option for those who want to “lock in” your price and
have only one or two documents which you think might be a forgery. There is never a charge
for the number of exemplars, just a flat rate based on the number of “documents in question.”
Most document examiners in the United States range from $600 – $1500 for a written opinion
of one or two documents. Rates do vary widely with experience. Attorneys can request a “retainer”
against the hourly rate or you can pay the flat rate, if available. Download the RATE
SHEET to avoid any surprises. 5. Court Qualified. Is your case going to court? Has the expert
testified in court before? Usually, any expert which has already testified has a good chance
of testifying again, in any state. But, be wary of the “expert” who has been disqualified
from testifying and investigate why. 6. Location. Do you have to hire locally? Most people feel
they have to hire an expert in their own home town, but this simply isn’t true. Most cases
these days can be inspected through scans, email, faxes and overnight shipping. If there
are originals to be examined and the documents don’t travel, then you might incur an additional
expense for TRAVEL. But, really, is the cost of a plane ticket worth the difference between
the “best document examiner” versus the “closest document” examiner? Hire the best and if they
live within a few hundred miles of you that is a perfect combination. 7. Initial Consultation.
Have a conversation with the examiner or the examiner’s top staff member. The very best
examiners probably have “gate keepers” and “office assistants” who are well trained to
answer questions and get your case started. In fact, if you find a smart and well-educated
office assistant, you’ve probably found a smart and well-educated document examiner.
Since the busiest document examiners are earning $300 per hour, don’t be surprised if you can’t
get a “free chat” with them on your initial phone call. Most will give you a 5 minute
consult, if you schedule an appointment, but be respectful of their time. In most cases,
you can get a feel for the expert’s charisma, personality, and professionalism from his
staff, website, and Curriculum Vitae. Finally, I’ve created a Frequently Asked Questions
page at my website which answers in even more detail other commonly asked questions from
clients and prospective clients. I encourage you to check out this FAQ page or call one
of our recommended document examiners and discuss your case directly. There are many
document examiners to choose from and some are much better than others. If you use the
tips given in this video, you will find a great document examiner. Thanks for watching,
and good luck with your document examination case.

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