FORENSIC ENGINEERS – WHAT DO THEY DO?
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.