Becoming an Expert Witness

by Steven Babitsky, Pres.; SEAK, Inc., Falmouth, MA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 2001, Vol. 71, Issue 4, Pg. 54-55

Document Type: Feature article

Abstract: Civil engineers are often called upon to testify in civil suits, and most often their testimony is given in the form of a recorded deposition, which may or may not be used later at a trial. Engineers should prepare for depositions as if preparing for a final exam, by thoroughly reviewing several topics with the counselor who hires them, including the topics that will be covered, what the hiring counsel is attempting to accomplish, and what the opposing counsel will ask and why. Engineers should be clear about what is and is not within their area of expertise, and stick to short, simple, truthful statements about those issues on which they are qualified to speak. Unlike what may seem natural in other situations, expert witnesses should not seek to elaborate or explain more than what was asked; doing so may tip off opposing counsel to information it would not have had access to otherwise. If the deposition will be videotaped, it also helps to pay attention to visual details—such as personal appearance—to help communicate a sense of responsible professionalism on the part of the witness.

Subject Headings: Engineers | Expert witness |

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