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GREAT TRIAL PREPARATION

TRIAL PREPARATION 

“Learn the step-by-step trial preparation that will make your testimony creditable as an engineering expert witness.”

By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.” These engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law.

The good news is that the vast majority of cases settle; the bad news is that you need to prepare every case as if it will go to trial.

TRIAL PREPARATION

Review what to bring to court with your attorney/client. Usually, bring the following:

  • Your CV. Be prepared to present it orally from memory. Summarize your cases by saying something like, “I have been involved with 18 cases as an expert witness. I was deposed in 10 of them, and I testified at trial 4 times.”
  • Your fee schedule, time sheets, bills, and case summary. Make sure that these records are up to date and be prepared to answer the question, “How much time did you spend on this case and what were your total charges to date?”
  • Your report. Again, be prepared to present it orally from memory.

Don’t bring your case file unless directed to do so. If you do bring it, carefully remove any irrelevant, early, or incorrect information.

Trial preparation is similar to that needed for a deposition. The important difference is how clearly and convincingly you present your opinions. Juries tend to believe expert witnesses who appear confident, knowledgeable, and likable.

Another difference is the thoroughness of your trial preparation. Write out questions and detailed answers. These should each be concise. Juries lose their train of thought with run-on questions or answers; break them up into smaller pieces. Group them by topic and in appropriate order. For example: site investigation, interviews, examinations/observations, tests, and opinions. Also, include broad inquiries: “Tell us about all of your opinions and the justification for each. When did you first form that opinion?” (Hopefully it was not before you knew the results of your investigation.) Send them to your attorney/client for review. Also, ask him or her to send you a written list of other possible questions. (But, don’t expect much of a reply).

Practice aloud in front of a mirror until you can recite the answers from memory with conviction and without “umms” and “I thinks.” This will adequately prepare you for your direct examination by your attorney/client.

Next, try to predict questions the opposing attorney might ask during his or her cross-examination. The opposing expert’s report will be an inspiration for possible questions. Try to craft an appropriate response to each, answers that don’t sound defensive. Try to find out the name of the attorney who is expected to cross-examine you so you can address him or her by last name in court. If you forget the name, address the attorney as “counselor.”

In some cases, exhibits are effective. If you think of a prop that illustrates your opinions and makes them easier to understand, review that with your attorney/client well ahead of time.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If trial preparation interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer.

Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights” of Forensic Engineering. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Learn how to be a forensic expert witness. How to be an engineering expert witness. How to obtain training as a forensic engineer. How to obtain training as an engineering expert witness.

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FORENSIC ENGINEERING REPORTS

FORENSIC ENGINEERING REPORTS

“Learn the step-by-step process of writing expert reports that will make your testimony creditable.”

By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING”

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.” These engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law.

REPORTS

Do not write reports until your attorney/client requests. There are three basic types of forensic engineering reports: verbal, summary, and detailed.

Verbal Reports

Preliminary reports should be oral because the investigation is ongoing and not all questions have been answered. Also, your attorney/client doesn’t want your opinion committed to writing until he or she knows what it is. Tell your attorney/client both the strengths and weaknesses and the status of your investigation.

Call your attorney/client as soon as you find serious flaws in his or her side of the case.

Before writing your report, ask your attorney/client for a written guide outlining the case strategy, desired testimony, and questions to be answered. In my experience, you will be lucky to get an off-the-top-of-the-head verbal response.

Summary Written Report

After your verbal report, your attorney/client may request a summary report. Be sure that you review exactly the depth that he or she wants before proceeding. Usually, this type of report is requested if the case is expected to go to trial and your attorney/client does not want to give away your full position.

Detailed Written Report

Instead, after your verbal report, your attorney/client may request a detailed report. Again, be sure to review exactly the depth he or she wants before proceeding. Usually, this type of report is requested if the case is expected to settle and the strategy is to reveal how strong your arguments are, thus encouraging a settlement.

Regardless of length, reports should be organized in the following manner:

Begin with a summary of the background of the case. Include the “who, what, when, and where” of the incident (accident, failure, fire, explosion, error, etc.). Include basic facts, events, injuries, sources, and weather, if pertinent. You should already have this information on your case summary sheet.

Next, describe your investigation. Include a list of documents read, interviews held, site observations, tests conducted or observed (including a summary of the results), and a laboratory test result summary.

Include an opinions section. It is best to state each opinion separately, including the justifications for each. Be sure you can substantiate each word in each opinion because you may be extensively cross-examined. Be sure this section is complete because these are the only opinions to which you will be allowed to testify, unless new information becomes available.

Attach an appendix to your report, including test reports, sketches, and photographs with a caption on each explaining what it depicts and its relevance. The appendix should include a list of reference materials (textbooks, handbooks, and published papers) supporting your findings. Be thorough and include page numbers from all sources. Make your forensic engineering reports outstanding.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer.

Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights” of Forensic Engineering. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Learn how to be a forensic expert witness. How to be an engineering expert witness. How to obtain training as a forensic engineer. How to obtain training as an engineering expert witness.

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FORENSIC ENGINEERING INVESTIGATIONS

FORENSIC ENGINEERING INVESTIGATIONS

“Learn about forensic engineering investigations: the step-by-step process of site investigation, and examination & testing of evidence that will make your testimony creditable.”

By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING

Learn about forensic engineering investigations.

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.” These engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law. Learn about forensic engineering investigations.

SHOULD YOU CONSIDER THIS FIELD?

Benefits

  • Interesting work
  • Low liability
  • High hourly rates
  • Advanced payment via retainer
  • Little competition

Drawbacks

  • Can be stressful
  • Sometimes requires travel

INVESTIGATIONS

The more investigation, research, analysis, and testing that you do, the more credible and convincing your testimony will be. Your investigation will, of course, depend on the details of the issues in your field of involvement. Your attorney/client can arrange access to evidence or the site. Do not rely on your memory; take detailed notes.

Site Investigation

If appropriate, visit the site to see the actual circumstances of the incident. Besides a pad and pen, bring a camera and possibly binoculars. Take many pictures and make sketches, if appropriate. Try to determine if the conditions now are the same as they were immediately following the incident.

One of my first investigations was of a fire of suspected electrical origin. The fire damage was extensive, with insulation melted off of much of the exposed wiring in the basement. Many of the covers were missing from junction boxes, and some had wiring hanging out with connections exposed without wire nuts. I documented all of these violations and thought, “No wonder the place burned down.” It wasn’t until I was driving home that it dawned on me that there were probably a half-dozen investigators there before me who created most of the violations. Don’t assume that things were always as you find them.

Be prepared to interview persons who may be able to offer useful information. It would be helpful to bring a tape recorder for interviews or to simplify note-taking.

Examination

If applicable, relevant items may be sent to you or you may have to go somewhere else to view, examine, and possibly test them. Besides a pad and pen, bring a camera and surgical gloves. Before touching these items, explain to representatives of both parties what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and receive permission before proceeding. Take many pictures and make sketches, if appropriate. Depending upon the magnitude of the case, there may be a dozen or more people present, and you may have to wait your turn.

If you suspect that evidence has been tampered with or spoiled, immediately inform your attorney/client.

Testing

Consider pertinent testing, if needed. In some cases, this is your responsibility; in others, testing should be done by an independent laboratory. One argument for independent testing may be that you don’t have the required measuring devices; another is that independent tests appear more objective. Have your attorney/client contract directly with the laboratory so the lab results will be his work product. If you do the testing, it is usually best to rent the test equipment and have the supplier provide a report of recent calibration and accuracy of the instrument. You don’t want to be questioned about these issues regarding your meters while on the witness stand. Review, advise your attorney/client, and obtain written permission before proceeding. I wouldn’t hesitate to proceed, however, if your attorney/client is present, informs you that the other side has approved, and is aware of what you will do.

There are two types of testing: nondestructive and destructive. Do only nondestructive testing on the actual item that is the issue of the action. If the testing needs to be destructive, obtain an “exemplar,” an identical item. There may be others at the site or an exact copy may be available from the manufacturer. In any case, get permission before testing of any kind.

Sometimes, it is appropriate for you to observe testing by others. Also, you or someone else may be asked to write a “protocol” (procedure) for testing for approval by all parties prior to testing.

CONCLUSION

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer.

Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights of Forensic Engineering”. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Find out how to be a forensic expert witness. Discover how to be an engineering expert witness. Find out how to obtain training as a forensic engineer. Learn how to obtain training as an engineering expert witness.

 

 

 

 

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FORENSIC ENGINEERS CASE FILE

FORENSIC ENGINEERS CASE FILE

“Learn how to organizing your forensic engineers case file so that they will all be consistent.”

By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING”

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.” These engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law.

YOUR CASE FILE

Your forensic engineers case file is discoverable by the opposition. Be very careful what it includes. Keep written correspondence to a minimum. Your theory of the case may evolve and change over time as you uncover more information. The first two pages should be your Case Summary and Case Time and Charges.

On the Case Summary Sheet, add a narrative of the case: who, what, when, and where the incident (accident, failure, fire, explosion, error, etc.) occurred, including basic facts, events, injuries, sources, and weather, if pertinent. Update your ongoing summary of your investigation and possibly include proposed future actions and questions. Avoid unfounded accusations. As your forensic engineering practice grows, it may become harder to remember the status of each case. Also, priorities change and some cases go on hold for extended periods. If an attorney/client calls about his or her case and you don’t remember the details, say you are in conference and will return the call later. Find the case file, read the summary, and return his call. Prepare this record on your computer so that, as it is updated, there is no record of changes.

Each time that you work on a case, indicate the date and the start and stop times on the case Time and Charges Sheet. When you are interrupted by an unrelated activity, be sure to subtract that time from your sheet. At the end of each month, send a bill for your time. Include a summary of activity for the month, listing the day and the total time for the day rounded up to quarter- or half-hours. Do not break down the time for each task in your forensic engineering case file.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer.

Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights” of Forensic Engineering. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Learn how to be a forensic expert witness. How to be an engineering expert witness. How to obtain training as a forensic engineer. How to obtain training as an engineering expert witness. Discover how important your forensic engineers case file is to your expert witness practice.

 

 

 

 

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FORENSIC ENGINEER’S (CV) SAMPLE

START FORENSIC ENGINEERING

FORENSIC ENGINEER’S CURRICULUM VITA (CV) SAMPLE

JOHN D. GASKELL, P.E., Forensic Electrical Engineer

Specialty:             ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS FOR BUILDINGS

Forensic consulting electrical engineer specializing in disputes relating to Electrical design and construction of buildings:  Electrical failures/explosions; electrocutions; fires of electrical origin; errors and omissions; standard of care; National Electrical Code compliance; illumination evaluations; power quality; grounding; lightning protection; and electrical accidents.  Member: National Academy of Forensic Engineers.

Education:

Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering

University of Rhode Island, 1966

Associates in Electrical Engineering Technology

Wentworth Institute, Boston, MA 1962

Professional Registrations:

Registered Professional Engineer in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Professional Practice:

John D. Gaskell, P.E. is president of Gaskell Associates Consulting Electrical Engineers.  This engineering practice, established by him in 1971, specializes in electrical systems for buildings.  Gaskell Associates is a division of Thielsch Engineering, a 250 person, diverse engineering firm.

For over 30 years Gaskell Associates has provided electrical design services to architects and building owners, including: Power Distribution Systems; Emergency Power systems; High voltage Power Distribution systems; Lighting Design; Fire alarm systems; Lightning Protection Systems; Security alarm Systems; communications systems; MATV & CCTV Systems; Computer Power and Network Systems; UPS & Power Conditioning Systems; Magnetic Field Measurements and Mitigation; Power Quality Studies, Measurements and Monitoring; Feasibility Studies and Forensic Investigations & Legal Testimony.

Service to clients has been the key to their success.

Professional Affiliations:

National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

President of the Rhode Island Society of Professional Engineers 1980-1981

Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA)

Founding President of the Rhode Island Chapter 1975-1976

National Academy of Forensic Engineers

Board Certified and credentialed Diplomat Forensic Engineer

R.I. State Building Code Standards Committee (Past Member)

Electrical Sub-committee Past Chairman

Electrical League of Rhode Island

Past Director

Providence Engineering Society

National Electromagnetic Field Testing Association

Honors and Awards:

FREEMAN AWARD from the Providence Engineering Society

This award was established for the purpose of recognizing major achievement in engineering.  It is held to be unique in that it recognizes accomplishment, inventiveness, development of theory, or the application of scientific knowledge in such a way as to provide advancement in the art and practice of engineering.

ENGINEER OF THE YEAR

From the Rhode Island Society of Professional Engineers

LIGHTING DESIGN AWARDS

Hall Library, Cranston, Rhode Island

From the New England Section of IESNA

Lincoln School Gym, Providence, Rhode Island

From the Rhode Island Chapter of IESNA

ESD FIRST PLACE NATIONAL DESIGN AWARD

“UNINTERRUPTIBLE Power Supply” (UPS) system for Fleet National Bank’s Computer Operations Center in Providence, RI, with initial capacity of 600 KVA and expandable to 1 Megawatt.

From Electrical Systems Design Magazine

WEISMAN MEMORIAL AWARD

In recognition of sustained and meritorious service

From the Rhode Island chapter of IESNA

MAN OF THE YEAR

From the Electrical League of Rhode Island

Publications:

“Anatomy of a Power Outage.”  Electrical Construction & Maintenance (EC&M) Magazine, October 2001

“Consulting Engineer: Watch Out for Decline in Power Quality.” APC UPTIME, April 2001

“Avoiding EMF’s – Designing Buildings Limiting Occupants Exposure to EMF’s.”   Power Quality Assurance, September/October 1996

“Electrical Design with EMF in Mind.” Electrical Construction & Maintenance (EC & M) Magazine, February 1995

“Expandable UPS Serves Bank Operations Center.”  Electrical Construction & Maintenance       (EC & M) Magazine, March 1988

“Effects of Voltage Reduction.” Electrical Consultant, February 1974

Lectures:

“How Fire Alarm System Requirements Affect Building Owners.”

Lecture presented to the Building Owners and Managers Association of Rhode Island, May 2005.

“What Realtors need to know about the New Fire alarm Systems Requirements.”

Lecture presented to     the Rhode Island Association of Realtors, February 2005.

“Fire Alarm Systems for Building Owners.”

Seminar presented by Gaskell Associates Consulting Engineers to over 400 attendees regarding the changes to the Rhode Island Fire Safety Code precipitated by the 2003 Station Nightclub Fire, November 2004.

“Electrical Systems for Buildings.”

Lecture presented at the advanced lighting course for the Rhode Island Chapter of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, January 2000.

“Power Quality Audits and Monitoring.”

Lecture presented at the Rhode Island Plant Engineering Maintenance Show and Conference, October 1999.

“Forensic Engineering – How to prepare a case.”

Lecture presented at the Rhode Island Plant Engineering Maintenance Show and Conference, October 1999.

“Power Quality Studies and Monitoring.”

Lecture presented to the Southern New England Network Users Group, July 1998.

“Power Quality in New Buildings.”

Lecture presented at the Building Systems Course, Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI, April 1998.

“Electrical Systems for Buildings.”

Lecture presented at the advanced lighting course for   the Rhode Island Chapter of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, January 1998.

“Power Quality – Why be concerned.”

Lecture presented to AIA Rhode Island, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects, November 1997.

“Forensic Engineering.”

Lecture presented to the Rhode Island Chapter of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, November 1997.

“Power Quality Audits.”

Lecture presented to the New England Healthcare Engineers Society at their Fall Seminar in New London, Connecticut, November 1996.

“The Industrial Design Building @ 161 South Main Street.”

Lecture at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), October 1996.

“Power Quality Studies & Solutions.”

Lecture presented to the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Association of Plant Engineers, October 1996.

“Avoiding EMF’s.”

Lecture presented at the National Conference on Harmonics and Power Quality in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 1995.

“The Architect’s Role in Electrical Design.”

Lecture presented at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), October 1994 and December 1995.

“Lighting Design in Commercial Buildings.”

Lecture presented at Roger Williams University College of  Architecture, September 1992.

“I.E.S. Lighting Design Awards.”

Lecture presented to the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Institute of Architects at their Fall Conference, October 1990.

“Uninterruptible Power Supply Systems.”

Lecture presented to the Rhode Island Hospital Engineers Association, February 1987.

“Energy Efficiency in Electrical Systems.”

Lecture presented for the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Association of Plant Engineers, March 1986.

“Electrical Systems for Buildings.”

Course presented at Roger Williams University College of Engineering, fall 1982, 1983 and 1984.

“IES Introduction to Light and Lighting.”

Course for the Rhode Island Chapter of IES, Spring 1978.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer. Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights of Forensic Engineering. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Find out how to be a forensic expert witness. Discover how to be an engineering expert witness. Find out how to obtain training as a forensic engineer. Learn how to obtain training as an engineering expert witness.

 

 

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WHITE PAPERS by FORENSIC ENGINEERS

FORENSIC ENGINEERING WHITE PAPERS

“Learn how engineering experts benefit from preparing and studying white papers”.

By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING”

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.” These engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law.

WHITE PAPERS

To properly prepare your case, it is often necessary to research specialized areas of your field, such as those that may be new to you or you haven’t needed since college. While doing this studying, make notes in a narrative form to make it easier for you to write your expert report. In addition, these notes will help you prepare for your deposition and for trial as an expert. These papers prepare you for cross-examination questions on the specialized technical area at issue. They have the added advantage of preparing you for questions in the general technical area but not specific to this case. When your work involves a new technical issue, read about it and take detailed notes in narrative form, including definitions of the various new terms.

These are often called “white papers,” a compilation of your knowledge on a specific topic. It organizes your research for use not only on this case, but on future cases. If the source information is paraphrased, it could also be the basis for a magazine article authored by you. Reprints will help you earn a reputation as an expert in your field.

I didn’t learn about white papers until I was in practice for over 20 years. Start as soon as you have a job. After you have prepared a “white paper,” reread it several times, and commit much of the information to memory. When the subject comes up, you will be able to discuss it like an expert. Gain a reputation as the “smartest guy in the room.”

After I established my own engineering practice and began hiring employees, I wanted to standardize procedures for two reasons. Most importantly, this was so that my staff would provide the same standard of service that my clients had come to expect from me. Also, I realized that by sharing information we would become more efficient and, thus, more profitable. I organized this information, including white papers, and put it in a 3-ring binder that I called my Operations Manual. This information can now be more easily organized and updated with computers.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer.

Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights” of Forensic Engineering. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.

 

 

 

 

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FORENSIC ENGINEERS NEED A – CV

FORENSIC ENGINEERS NEED A “CV”

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.” These engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law.

CURRICULUM VITAE (CV)

A CV is what a Forensic Engineer’s expert witness resume is called. The more detailed and complete it is, the more qualified they will appear.

Include the following items:

  • Specialty—Summary of your area of expertise.
  • Education—Starting with college and including degrees and honors, post-graduate studies, and certifications.
  • Professional registrations—List states and numbers.
  • Professional practice—Present and previous company affiliations, positions and titles.
  • Professional affiliations—Memberships in professional/technical groups and offices held.
  • Honors and awards—List name of honor/award and group presenting it.
  • Publications—List title, publication, and month and year
  • Lectures—List title, group presented to, and month and year
  • Forensic activities—List the most recent first, including:

Title (example) LIGHTNING INVESTIGATION, Westerly, RI.

Date hired.

Your job number.

Parties to the case and official court case number and venue.

Retaining attorney (Also list if for defense or plaintiff).

Synopsis: Two brief paragraphs, the first describing the incident and the second describing your assignment including whether it involved deposition and/or testimony at trial.

Print your CV on your stationary (letterhead for the first page and second sheet for the others) and bind it between covers embossed with your company name. Distribute this to potential clients like litigation attorneys and insurance adjusters.

See my next blog for the first few pages of my CV.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer. Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights of Forensic Engineering. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Find out how to be a forensic expert witness. Discover how to be an engineering expert witness. Find out how to obtain training as a forensic engineer. Learn how to obtain training as an engineering expert witness.

 

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FORENSIC ENGINEERS – WHAT DO THEY DO?

FORENSIC ENGINEERS – WHAT DO THEY DO?

INTRODUCTION

Understand what forensic engineers do and discover why this exciting, challenging, and profitable field should be part of your consulting engineering practice. Find out what is involved and if you have what it takes to be a success in the litigation arena.

WHAT IS INVOLVED FOR FORENSIC ENGINEERS?

Cases of forensic engineers include some or all of the following: site investigation; examination and testing of evidence; reports (verbal, summary, and detailed); testimony at deposition; testimony at trial (direct and cross-examination).

There are two sides to every case. The person who brings the action is the “plaintiff.” If you work for his or her attorney, you are a plaintiff’s witness. The other party in the suit is the “defendant.” If you work for his or her attorney, you are a defendant’s witness. In your forensic practice, you will almost exclusively be involved with civil cases (noncriminal matters).

There are two types of witnesses: a “fact witness” and an “expert witness.” A fact witness can only tell what he or she observed, not what others have said (hearsay) and not his or her opinion concerning the case. You, as a forensic engineer, will be an expert witness (a technical witness) and as such, you are allowed to express your opinions on matters within your expertise.

The attorney who hires you may represent either the plaintiff or the defendant, or their insurance companies. When you work directly for an attorney, your work is protected from discovery (detection), by the opposition because it is “attorney work product.” Avoid working directly for the parties of the suit because your work is not similarly protected.

Your “scope of services” in your forensic fee agreement is important for similar reasons. “Consultant and (if designated) as expert” allows your attorney-client to deny that you were dismissed as an expert witness, if he or she doesn’t like your opinion as a consultant.

Above all, you must be truthful at all times. Forensic engineers must be supportive of there opinion without arguing for your attorney-client. Your opinion will not always coincide with that of your attorney-client. His or her job is to advocate for the client. Your job is to form an accurate and scientifically consistent opinion and to convey that to your attorney-client. If your attorney-client doesn’t agree with your theory of the case, he or she can get another expert. In addition he or she benefit from your contrary opinion because your findings will point out the weaknesses in their case and may prompt a settlement.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer. Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights of Forensic Engineering. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Find out how to be a forensic expert witness. Discover how to be an engineering expert witness. Find out how forensic engineers obtain training. Learn how to obtain training as an engineering expert witness.

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WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A FORENSIC ENGINEER

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A FORENSIC ENGINEER

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.” These engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law.

Benefits

  • Interesting work
  • Low liability
  • High hourly rates
  • Advanced payment via retainer
  • Little competition

Drawbacks

  • Can be stressful
  • Sometimes requires travel

Because litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice.

DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?

To be an “expert witness,” you don’t need to be a forensic engineer, but you do need experience and credentials in your field. To be an “engineering expert, you will usually need an engineering degree and a license as a Professional Engineer. In addition, being a member of NAFE is a big help in being selected and in assuring acceptance as an expert in court.

It is also important to have knowledge and qualifications in the engineering specialty involved in the particular case at hand. For example, if the issue is lighting or illumination, experience in lighting design and membership in the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) would be helpful. It’s best to stick to your general area of expertise. If you are an electrical engineer, for instance, don’t take on a civil engineering case.

In addition, you should possess the following general traits:

  • Speaking/teaching ability. In court you need to speak clearly, using proper English and making your statements and replies concise and easy to understand. You will be teaching the judge and jury your opinion of the case and it is your job to convince them that you are correct.
  • Writing skills. Written reports need to be clear and professional. Don’t put anything in writing until your attorney-client requests. Be sure you can defend every word under cross-examination.
  • Willingness to prepare. You are being paid to study the case and the technical issues involved. This can often be tedious, but it is the key to success. When preparing for court or deposition, it is crucial that you prepare for all possible questions and memorize much of the information.
  • Reading skills. In most cases you will receive a box full of documents to review. These may include: (1) affidavits (written declaration of facts sworn to); (2) complaint (plaintiff’s initial pleadings); (3) depositions (oral testimony taken by the opposing attorney in advance of trial); (4) indictments (written accusations presented by a grand jury); (5) interrogatories (written questions sent to the opposing side and written answers submitted under oath); (6) petitions (written applications to the court requesting judicial action); (7) pleadings (written statements of contentions of the parties in the suit); (8) subpoenas (written orders for witnesses to appear); (8) summons (writ directing an officer to notify a defendant to appear in court); and (9) transcripts (official record of proceedings in a trial, deposition, or hearing).

It is part of your job to read all of these documents and to cull the information pertinent to your involvement in the case. This can mean many hours of reading even though many of these documents have no bearing on your portion of the case.

FORENSIC ENGINEER CONCLUSION

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer. Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights of Forensic Engineering. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Find out how to be a forensic expert witness. Discover how to be an engineering expert witness. Find out how to obtain training as a forensic engineer. Learn how to obtain training as an engineering expert witness.

 

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EXPERT WITNESS CROSS-EXAMINATION

EXPERT WITNESS CROSS-EXAMINATION

Forensic engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law. In my experience, most opposing attorneys are civilized. However, some of them can be nasty and abrupt in their cross-examination. Consider cross-examination questions like the following, and craft answers that suit your personality and temperament. But listen carefully because a slightly differently worded question may require an entirely different reply. After every question, pause for a beat to give yourself time to form the best answer and to allow your attorney/client time to object. If he or she does object, immediately stop talking until the judge rules. In any case, try not to lose your cool.

CROSS-EXAMINATION

Question: How much are you being paid for your testimony?

Answer: My company charges $XXX per hour for my professional services; my testimony is not for sale.

Question: Isn’t it true that you would not be here today if it weren’t for the obscene amount of money that you are being paid?

Answer: Like you, counselor, I am being paid appropriately for my professional services.

Question: Have you ever lied?

Answer: Of course, but never under oath.

Question: Have you ever been wrong?

Answer: Yes, but never on the witness stand.

Question: Did you read all the documents regarding this case?

Answer: I requested all of the relevant documents and read them.

Question: You haven’t told us everything today, have you?

Answer: No, it would be impossible to condense 40 years of professional practice into a few hours.

Question: What is the reputation of the opposing expert?

Answer: I like him. I don’t know what others think of him.

Question: Did you remove any information from your case file?

Answer: I updated my case file, but I didn’t remove any relevant information.

Question: How much money do you make in an average year?

Answer: That is personal and not relevant to these proceedings.

If you are directed by the judge to answer, respond with one of the following:

Answer: My income from litigation related services is about $XX,XXX.

                or

I don’t know; it varies from year to year.

Question: Did your attorney/client tell you what to say today?

Answer: No, of course not. Except to speak slowly and clearly.

Be especially cautious of compound cross-examination questions, run-on multiple questions, or ones with multiple parts. Ask to have them rephrased, one question at a time. Politely keep asking for clarifications until you understand the question.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer. Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The”Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights of Forensic Engineering. Visit TheEngineersResource.com to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Find out how to be a forensic expert witness. Discover how to be an engineering expert witness. Find out how to obtain training as a forensic engineer. Learn how to obtain training as an engineering expert witness.