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Expert Witnesses

Accident Analysis

As an engineering expert witness I am called upon to explain what happened in an accident, including the cause or causes ('Accident Reconstruction'.)

My opinion may result in benefit to either plaintiff or defendant but I do not accept employment with the understanding that my opinion will benefit the side which employs me. I "calls em as I sees em." If my opinion benefits the side which employs me I am named to the court as that side's expert witness; if it is unfavorable to that side I am dismissed but my opinion remains useful to it in settlement bargaining. As long as I am a consultant my work is privileged but when I become a named expert my files are open. Therefore, while a consultant, I communicate only verbally until I am directed to write.

Typical kinds of evidence useful in forming an expert opinion are:

Medical reports (Death, symptoms, surface burns, etc.)
Non-deposed reports by police, fire department, OSHA, utility technicians, insurance adjusters, victims, witnesses.
Laws, Specifications, Codes, Standards, by government and industry, for equipment, installation, guarding, warnings & instructions.
Internal data of an involved company.
"Standards of Care."
Product instructions and warnings. (Inadequate instructions or warnings are product defects.)
Product design drawings and specifications.
Factory inspection records of incoming components and finished products
Product hardware involved in the accident
Test data on hardware involved in the accident
Product accident history.
Training adequacy, manufacturer and user people.
Site visit, if all else is inadequate to form an opinion.
(Kinds of evidence for auto accidents are not included here because I am not expert in auto accidents.)

A creative form of evidence is a proposed product improvement which would have prevented the accident without being too costly for a commercial product. A record of such engineering in the expert's career is a basis for believing the proposal.

Deciding whether or not victim compensation should be limited to Workers Compensation Insurance is often an essential issue in the case. However this decision is not an expert's engineering opinion although the expert's engineering opinion may be a deciding element in the court's decision, particularly if there is a question of product liability. The expert's report and testimony should be limited to his expert opinion regardless of any non-expert opinion he may have.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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