EXPERT TRIAL TESTIMONY
“Learn the step-by-step process that will make your expert trial 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.
On the day of court, arrive early and well rested. Men should wear a suit or conservative jacket and tie. A dark pinstriped suit, bow tie, and pocket square worked for me; it might not be best for you. Most women look impressive in a dark-colored suit, neutral blouse, and medium-heeled pumps. Don’t show up in casual or sporty clothes for your expert trial testimony.
Don’t let the unexpected throw you off of your game. Try to picture in your mind, ahead of time, whom and what you may see in court. If someone was terribly disfigured in a fire, be prepared for the encounter. If someone injured his right hand in the accident, be prepared for him to offer his left hand for a handshake.
As you approach the witness stand, give a copy of your business card to the court reporter. He or she will spell your name correctly, and the jury will believe this is not your first testimony.
While on the stand, sit up straight and lean slightly forward to give the appearance of full attention. Respond confidently to each question, and address your reply to the jury, looking directly at them. Your attorney/client will do your direct examination, and the first questions will be to qualify you as an expert witness and to make your expert trial testimony credible. Beforehand, discuss with your attorney/client regarding the depth that he desires, and be prepared to recite your qualifications from memory. Oftentimes, if your qualifications are eminent, the opposing attorney will “stipulate” to your qualifications: accept you as an expert without enumeration. Sometimes, my attorney/client objected to stipulation; he wanted the jury to hear my qualifications. Appear calm at all times, and try not to let the opposing attorney get you visibly upset.
Remember that you should not express opinions on matters beyond your expertise. Respond as follows: “I am not qualified as an expert in that area of knowledge.” If your answer to a question is “I don’t know,” and the opposing attorney presses you further, look at the judge and state, “I don’t want to guess.”
Regardless of how you think your expert trial testimony went, leave the stand walking erect with your head held high and a neutral expression on your face.
Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If expert trial testimony 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.