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Expert Witness Experience and Skills Count

A short expulse of my experience as an expert witness with a few personal notes.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article about qualities of a good expert witness and what that good expert witness does. Qualities should always include:

-total honestly no matter the client
-striving to locate root causes of accidents and,
-presenting the facts as they are found.

I commented in that article that as an expert witness, I always found that my clients were in need of some areas for improvement (nice phrase for corrective action) as I explored the root causes. These root causes were clearly outlined to the client's attorney. The results from these recommendations usually resulted in safety improvements via HSE program improvement and safety enhancements. Oh yes, these companies would have to invest money for these safety improvements. For example, two years after I recommended major safety enhancements to a drilling company, I was called back by the same company and asked to help them again. I did so gladly. An excellent Expert Witness is someone who has the experience and skills to evaluate a serious incident or litigation and who provides the client with facts and expert opinion without prejudice. In most cases, clients are looking for true root causes, and in other cases where they may ask that the Expert evaluate the case and provide an honest expert opinion as to the merits of the case. In these situations, an expert witness should never feel he is obligated to bend the truth or base his evaluation in a way that is weighted to the litigator's position. I personally have been released from a case because I presented evidence contrary to the client's position. I know some who laugh when asked will they sparse the truth to make their client's case. I have heard it said that truth is gray and not really black or white so one can be on either side of an issue as long as they are being paid. I always ask the client before I accept the project if they want the honest facts and the true root causes and corrective actions. I never use the word "blame" to a client as that is a legal term subject to many definitions. I generally get the answer: "yes we want the absolute facts even if it is contrary to our case", However, that position may (and has) changed if facts are found to be different than the client's position.

In short, if you are looking for a great expert witness, lI suggest that you look for someone with the experience and skills required and someone who will give you an honest opinion opinion based upon the facts no matter where the root causes lie. PS True story- I was personally asked for again to lead a high profile investigation by a Fortune 500 drilling company after I had finished one two years prior. I asked how the accident results ended with the authorities. They said they paid several million$ in fines but were allowed to continue drilling based upon their proactive corrective actions taken. A good feeling indeed.

By HSE Solutions, Inc.
Accident Causation, Behavioral Systems, Risk Assessment, Oil/Gas Expert Witness
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ronald G. Hallmark
Ronald G. Hallmark CSP, experienced HSE professional, HSE and Risk manager on 4 continents, as well as professional member of ASSE. Presentations at Safety Symposiums as well as before audiences at OLLIE (University of Alabama) related to cultural uniqueness.

Copyright HSE Solutions, Inc.

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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