Engineers in Court

by F. C. Budinger, Pres.; Budinger & Associates, Spokane, WA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1987, Vol. 57, Issue 8, Pg. 52-54

Document Type: Feature article


Engineers who like debating often serve as expert witnesses. Though many avoid forensic work because they find lawyers intimidating, some like the challenge of explaining engineering principles to the court and matching wits with attorneys or opposing experts. Legal work can be stimulating; a construction failure often gives engineers the opportunity to test their theories. Expert witnessing involves educating the jury, judge, the lawyers on the case and explaining complex engineering principles. To do this well, experts should translate difficult to understand engineering terms into concepts that the jury and judge will understand. Using diagrams, photographs and drawings can also help prove a point. Attorneys should keep questioning general and allow the engineer to explain things. Engineers should also remain objective and refrain from judging the case themselves. Only the judge or jury are qualified to make final determinations in a legal case.

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