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Role of Expert Witnesses in Arson Cases

An expert witness is often vital to a criminal or civil case, and his or her role in the investigation or testing may provide a better understanding of the situation and if the defendant is either liable or committed a crime. The important on expert witness testimony increases or decreases based on the claim or case and who is liable or responsible for the arson.

Arson cases involve the intentional destruction of property through fire. An expert witness may provide an explanation of how the fire started, how it affected a person or property or why it generated so much destruction through his or her role in the case. The professional may need to testy certain evidence or apply rules to the building. Liability in civil cases may necessitate a different type of investigation than a criminal case. The role of the expert may change based on these circumstances. He or she may need to clear confusion about the fire or how someone is responsible.

Admissibility of Testimony

Expert witnesses must ensure their testimony is admissible so that they may speak to the judge or jury panel about the situation. This professional must possess a relevant knowledge of the subject matter, experience or training in the field. Then,
he or she must also know about the details in a way that an average person would not. Reliable testing methods and dependable details are crucial to remain on the case or claim. It is essential to remove any confusion about the evidence, involved parties and information that led to and includes the incident.

Factors of Arson

The role of the expert will often change depending on the case itself. If he or she must supply testimony, testing and details about arson in a criminal setting, he or she usually works for the prosecution. This would task the professional with explaining how the fire started and if the defendant is at fault for the incident. The usual confusion revolves around how the fire started and if anyone committed the crime. Some parties may attempt to collect insurance, and the expert may need to help the courtroom determine if the fire occurred due to illegal actions that constitute arson.

In the civil courtroom matter, the expert may need to help the plaintiff in proving that the defendant is responsible for the injuries the victim suffered through due to the fires. Other incidents may only involve the destruction of property. If the plaintiff is attempting to sue the insurance company for a valid settlement, the expert may need to explain the matter to the judge or jury and how the arson claim is legitimate and not the fault of the victim of the fire. Some of these cases occur in conjunction with or in addition to criminal cases.

Injuries to the Victim

Additional factors may play a role in the necessary testimony of an expert witness in arson cases. If the victim suffers greatly, the defendant may face more serious charges. These may even lead to harsher penalties if he or she faces conviction. Some fires spread to surrounding building and increase the severity of the fire and injure others not involved in the matter. The accused may face multiple charges in these incidents. Additionally, in civil cases, the same person may remain in court for each person harmed through the arson event. The seriousness of injuries could also lead to punitive damages from the judge or an increase in sentencing in criminal courts.

How the Expert Handles the Case

Depending on whether the expert will provide testimony for a criminal or civil case, he or she will have a different role. Additionally, the testimony itself will change. However, the testing of evidence and understanding the witness statements generally will not alter. Processing the incident fully, the professional may need to create a report and supply the judge or jury with an opinion on the cause, extent and relevant facts supplied from evidence and the scene of the crime.

The testimony that the expert presents will represent what he or she believes is the case based on evidence and experience. The professional will use his or her working knowledge and field understanding of arson and how fires work to determine if an accelerant was part of the destruction if the party intended the fire to spread and if another person had any involvement in the destruction. Through his or her words, the jury or judge should understand the case better.

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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.

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