“Learn the forensic engineering tips 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.”
FORENSIC ENGINEERING TIPS
- Pros: Interesting work, low liability, high hourly rates, little competition, and advanced payment via retainer.
- Cons: Can be stressful and sometimes requires travel.
- Requirements: Speaking/teaching ability, writing skills, willingness to prepare, and being a thorough reader.
- Two types of witnesses: A fact witness can only tell what they observed, not what others have said (hearsay) and not what they think concerning the case. On the other hand, an expert witness is a technical witness and can express opinions on matters within their expertise.
- Expert witnesses: Must be supportive of their opinions and not advocates for their attorney/client.
- CV: This is your expert witness resume and includes your present and previous company affiliations, positions and titles, education, certifications, PE licenses, memberships, awards, lectures, articles and papers published, and past forensic cases.
- Marketing: Send your CV to the litigation attorneys in your area with a cover letter introducing yourself, join the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE), contact the companies who frequently hire experts in your field, list in expert directories, and contact insurance companies.
- Forensic fee agreements: Should include an up-front, nonrefundable retainer, hourly rates, and a scope that retains you as a consultant until selected as the expert witness.
- Investigations: Include site inspections, interviews, examinations of evidence, testing, and reviewing of testing done by others. If you suspect that evidence has been tampered with or spoiled, immediately inform your attorney/client.
- White papers: Case preparation provides an opportunity to prepare narratives of specialized topics to use on future cases and as the basis of articles authored by you.
- Your case file: The first two pages should be your case summary and case time and charges.
- Reports: Do not write reports until your attorney/client requests. There are three basic types of reports: verbal, outline, and detailed.
- Depositions: Are “oral testimony, under oath, taken by the opposing attorney in advance of trial” and are often required of expert witnesses, especially if the case is expected to go to trial.
- The trial: 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. Review what to bring to court with your attorney/client. Usually, bring your CV, your fee schedule, time sheets, bills, case summary, and your report. Preparation is the key to success: write out questions and practice responding; try to appear confident, knowledgeable, and likable; consider exhibits and props; sit up straight and lean slightly forward; respond confidently to each question while looking at the jury; present a self-assured demeanor; and try not to let the opposing attorney get you visibly upset.
- Cross-examination: Most opposing attorneys are civilized. However, some of them can be nasty and abrupt in their cross-examinations. Craft answers to questions involving: your compensation, honesty, and being correct, having read everything, having told everything, knowing the reputation of the opposing witness, deleting information from your file, and your attorney/client having told you what to say.
- Cases: Accept only cases in your field of expertise, but don’t necessarily limit them to your area of specialty. My cases as an electrical engineer included electrocutions, fires of suspected electrical origin, standard of care, equipment failures, arc fault accidents, conveyor accidents, lightning strikes, and others. Yours will be different but also interesting and challenging.
Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable and you can benefit from these forensic engineering tips . 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 of these forensic engineering tips. 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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