Engineering experts can offer vital litigation support and can help sway a judge and jury in your client’s favor based on the strong and objective technical analysis of the issues of your case. However, when you are considering retaining an engineering expert witness, it is paramount that you ascertain, not only his experience testifying as an engineering expert, but also his experience that is relevant to your specific case.
Each segment of the engineering industry is, in some ways, its own entity, complete with its own set of jargon, publications and best practices. As an attorney, you cannot be expected to know every facet of every industry. However, by asking the right set of questions, you can use your legal training and powers of deduction to gauge the competency and erudition of any engineering expert.
Here are some things to look for when interviewing potential engineering experts:
Are they familiar with a specific product? If your case revolves around a specific product, make certain that the expert is familiar with the process of constructing said product. They should know the raw materials involved, the machinery that is used in manufacturing, as well as standard operating practices for all machinery involved.
When you mention the product to your expert, he should demonstrate knowledge about various types of plants that the product could be made. Even if you don’t know the specific type of plant where it’s manufactured, focus on gauging the expert’s experience dealing with various relevant manufacturing environments.
Also, inquire if he is aware of industry-specific laws, rules and regulations that are relevant to the case. He should display knowledge of national standards and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Ask if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a specific section for this industry.
You should ask your construction expert which industry-specific publications he subscribes to. Is he published in any industry publications? If your expert has published an article that’s relevant to your case, it can go a long way in establishing credibility during litigation.
If your expert discusses an affiliation with any industry-specific associations or conventions, it can go a long way in establishing their authority. Does he have a leadership position in any associations?
It is always a good idea to ask an expert what specific experience he possesses that qualifies him as an expert for this particular case. You can ask him who his mentor was, and therefore gain a perspective as to the breadth of his education and the history of his experience.
If you ask the expert witness if he needs any clarification to your inquiries, it can be a way of gauging additional knowledge he may possess on the subject matter. A good expert might have as many questions for you as for him.
Remember that there are going to be a very limited number of experts whose experience will line up with your needs. The right expert can be the deciding factor during litigation. By conducting a thorough interview, you can help find the best expert who can provide you with the strongest analysis of the issues most pertinent to your case and can communicate effectively to the judge or jury.