As one of the top expert witness services in the nation, ForensisGroup remains committed to monitoring trends in litigation, as well as ensuring that support is available in high-demand areas of expertise. Our leading role as a premier expert witness search firm is directly related to our ability to recruit experts in some of the most hard-to-find, highly specialized, and unique disciplines for complex cases nationwide. The following is provided, based upon ForensisGroup’s internal data, as an overview of the top five most in-demand technical expert witness disciplines of 2013.
Construction is a broad area in terms of expert witness discipline. There are many lawsuits, as well as processes involving alternative dispute resolution, such as arbitration, that involve residential, commercial, industrial, and public works constructions. Construction expert witnesses include architects, civil engineers, structural engineers, licensed contractors, geotechnical engineers, as well as a variety of other construction related specializations. In some cases, a construction expert will work in conjunction with another expert, such as an economic expert, however, the experience and educational background of many construction experts offers clients the ability to retain one expert that is capable of addressing multiple legal issues. There are many construction matters that requires a specialist, such as those related to scaffolding, roofing, water proofing, material evaluation, masonry, and cost estimating. Construction experts may be used for consulting, deposition, or testimonial purposes, on issues such as project management, surveying, structural design, industry standards, building codes, permits, electrical installations, defects, standards of care, inspections, scheduling, safety, testing and evaluation, time impact analysis, property appraisals, documents analysis, change orders, diminution in value, and lost profits. Common types of cases that require construction experts are disputes or claims involving breach of contract, loss of use, lost profits, diminution in value, or other contractual issues related to a defect or delay, as well as claims for personal injury, wrongful death, premise liability/building code violation, and worker’s compensation.
Accident Reconstruction experts are utilized in a variety of cases, including personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, premises liability, and workers’ compensation. Accident claims resulting in injury or death, that occur on roadways, whether involving a motorist, motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian, construction worker, or passengers of public, private or commercial transportation providers, often use experts for matters involving traffic control and operations; traffic signals, signs, markings, and speed bumps; highways design; work zones; and railroads. In addition, collision dynamics, such as vehicle damage, time, distance, speed, tire marks, momentum, force, lighting, and other physical or visual factors, are commonly used in establishing liability, as well for injury causation analysis purposes. In addition, experts are often used in claims involving non-roadway accidents, such as those occurring while aboard a train, plane, or theme park amusement ride, as well as accidents occurring on residential, business, or public property Reconstruction experts, such as biomechanical and other types of engineering experts, or experts specialized in faulty or defective products; product design or manufacture; industry standard; injury mechanisms and analysis; and product use, misuse, warning, or safety, are also used in cases associated with injury, death or property damages, caused by consumer products. In most jurisdictions, experts are required by law in cases involving negligence, but experts can also play a valuable role in actions based upon other legal theories, such as strict liability, whether for the purpose of consultation, deposition and discovery related matters, or courtroom testimony.
Safety experts come in many forms, and are used for a variety of dispute and pre-dispute purposes. In general, safety experts can be divided into two main categorical areas of expertise: (1) employee/employer related matters, such as OSHA violations or workers’ compensation matter; and (2) non-employee/non-employer related matters, such as guests, invitees, licensee, patrons, visitors, trespassers (discovered/undiscovered), passenger, or other persons to whom a duty is owed. As a result of their training, expertise, education, specialization, many experts provide services that accommodate both categories. Prior to dispute, expertise in discipline areas related to employees and employers, may be used for consulting purposes such as for employee training, hiring, management, supervision; course development and implementation of curriculum for supervisors, workers, or instructional personnel; policy-making and procedures writing; drug awareness programs; loss-control data collection; insurance coverage/ liability reduction; risk assessment and reduction; accident prevention; hazard evaluation; safety improvement; general compliance issues; accident, fire, explosion, or other emergency preparedness, or response and evacuation procedures. When an employee/employer related dispute, claim, incident, violation, or related legal matter or issue already exists, expertise may be provided in areas such as engineering, biology, forensics, chemistry, physics, mechanics, and a variety of other highly specialized disciplines, including biomechanical engineering; safety engineering; chemical engineering; petroleum engineering; nuclear engineering; geotechnical engineering; forensic engineering; fire protection engineering & fire safety science; thermodynamics; and kinetics. In non-employee/non-employer related matters, experts are also used for both pre-dispute consultation purposes involving safety, compliance and the like, but are also used post-dispute for litigation, discovery or testimonial purposes on issues of causation, such as inspection, safety, maintenance, repair, warning, dangerous conditions, reasonableness, and standards of care, as well as for the assessment, calculation, and valuation of damages.
Expertise provided in the areas of Accounting and/or economics play an important role in a variety of legal and professional practice areas, whether, business law, construction law, personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, premises liability, family law, legal malpractice, foreclosure, probate, and intellectual property law. Accounting and Economics experts may assist with pre-dispute matters, as a service provider, consultant, analyst, or instructional personal, in areas such as financing, accounting, auditing, budgeting, and contractual advising, business organizations, as well as post-dispute matters, for support or consultation purposes related to discovery, deposition, litigation, trial, or alternative dispute resolution. Experts are often used in business dispute matters concerning partnerships, corporations, breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation, or fraud. Many issues related to an agreement, contract, or legal obligation may also require expert support services, such as cases involving breach of contract, purchase price disputes, interference, profit loss, defects, delays, loss of use, valuation, or diminution in value. In addition, accounting and economic experts are commonly used in intellectual property disputes involving infringement, for matters such as lost profits, reasonable royalties, price erosion, market value, general damage assessment and calculation. In family law proceedings, particularly with the dissolution of marriage or support issues, experts may be used to resolve disputes over property distribution, asset valuation, retirement/ pension plans, or spousal or child support. Accounting and Economic experts may also provide specialized services in matters involving will, trusts, and other estate planning matters, or for dispute or administration matters related to probate.
Mechanical engineering is a specialized area of expertise. Such experts are often engaged for matters involving faulty, defective, or dangerous products that cause injury or damages to another. Engineering experts may assist in resolving matters related to injury and causation, whether concerning processes of design or manufacture. Mechanical engineers provide a wide range of support services including investigation, assessment, analysis, testing, and diagnostics, whether in an on-site, laboratory or other setting, which are often used in conjunction with deposition and courtroom testimony. Products liability cases involving motor vehicles, for example, may require expertise on matters such as airbag deployment, occupant restraint systems, suspension, and other mechanical components of a vehicle. Mechanical Engineers are also used for products liability actions extending from the use or operation of heavy or dangerous equipment or machinery, whether in an agricultural, occupational, industrial, commercial, or construction setting. Subject matters may include specific products or product components such as hydraulic systems, lifts, cranes, hoists, machine guards, which are often combined with specialized areas of expertise such as kinematics, ergonomics, combustion and flammability, hazardous materials, human factors, or biomechanics. In addition, engineering experts commonly provide specialized knowledge, whether for discovery, litigation, or testimonial purposes, in products liability cases involving consumer products, such as hand tools, appliances, ladders, and other mechanical or electrical devices.
It is important to remember, that in addition to support services for litigation or alternative dispute resolution, such as consultation, discovery matters, and deposition or courtroom testimony, the experts discussed herein, as well as most other types of experts in general, can be highly valuable in a wide variety of non-dispute related matters. In fact, the value of engaging an expert early can offer potential defendants the opportunity to avoid, prevent, and/or limit liability, as well as ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. Because ForensisGroup does not charge for recruiting best potential experts based upon the particular criteria requested by a client, exploring the advantages that an expert can offer, no matter what your concern, is certainly a worthwhile consideration.
By: Alicia McKnight, J.D.