Expert witnesses play an important role in the criminal and civil legal systems. They’re used by courts at all levels, too, from family court witnesses with specialized training in human behavior to forensic crime scene experts, private investigators, and others with skill sets that make them reliable interpreters of information within their narrow range of expertise.
The reason they’re so important is that normally the court only allows witnesses to testify to their experiences, what they see, hear and do. Because expert witnesses are qualified to speak on certain topics from a professional standpoint, they are given a license to interpret and draw conclusions. That’s how someone like a forensic accountant is allowed to testify about their processes and why their results are accurate.
When Do You Need an Engineering Expert?
Engineering witnesses care commonly called in cases that have to do with a product or structural design malfunction. The kind of engineer depends on the case. For example, a mechanical engineer might explain why the failure of a certain auto part was due to faulty design. Similarly, a civil engineer could speak to the condition of a building or bridge and the contributing factors to a partial collapse. Typically, you need an engineer expert witness when there is an engineering issue at play and you need to make sure the jury understands it.
How Do You Hire an Expert Witness?
Experts are typically recruited by your attorney, who has the training to understand when they’re needed for your case and to screen them for the best candidate. Professional expert witnesses advertise themselves as available through legal channels. Experience with the courts is a plus for an expert, because that means they understand the limitations on their testimony. If you think you might need an expert, bring it up with your lawyer so you can get feedback about how it would fit into your case.