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The Engineer in the Courts

David A. Conner, Ph.D., P.E.

Course Overview

Engineers working as a technical consultant and/or expert witness in the legal environment must function as educators, evaluators, and investigators in a manner that appropriately supports the distinct needs of their client/employer. (And, client/employer requirements will differ depending upon whether the client/employer is the plaintiff, the defense, or the court itself.) Beginning as a technical consultant and/or expert witness requires(1) a knowledge of both the law regulating the practice of engineering and the Canons of Practice and (2) the development of a) a detailed resume that includes pertinent credentials; b) a fee schedule, billing philosophy, and a mechanism for billing if serving as a consultant, c) a philosophy on note taking, and d) a philosophy on how files will be maintained.

When a case is acquired, the technical consultant/expert witness must
(1) establish a procedure with the client/employer for the filing of reports;
(2) review case documents (i.e. the complaint, charges, interrogatories and interrogatory responses, depositions, reports, and pictures);
(3) review all applicable codes, regulations, and standards; and
(4) examine all evidence related to the case.

Testimony in the form of a deposition provides the technical consultant/expert witness with a unique opportunity to offer professional opinions related to the case in the absence of a judge and jury - hence an ability to "partially control" the proceedings. Testimony before a jury requires that the technical consultant/expert witness display the best characteristics of a professional thespian.

This course is addressed to
(1) the consulting engineer interested in becoming a technical consultant and/or expert witness for the legal profession,
(2) the consulting engineer just getting started as a technical consultant/expert witness for the legal profession, and
(3) engineers in industry assigned, as a company employee, to assist company attorneys in litigation.

Course Modules

In this course you need to study the following five Course Modules, which are in MS Word format. This course includes a multiple choice quiz at the end. Also you are encouraged to download Module #5 Case Study, answer the questions in the Module and email the entire document with your answers back to We will post your answers anonymously in Users' Responses to Case Study for our users to share. You may receive (2) additional PDH credits upon completing the written assignment in Module #5 and remitting $49 through PDH Course G151.

Module #1: The Technical Consultant/Expert Witness
This module addresses (1) the functions of the technical consultant and/or expert witness, (2) the activities that must be accomplished when working for the plaintiff vs. when working for the defense, (3) the start-up activities as a technical consultant and/or expert witness, (4) contract and fee issues, (5) the steps to take when a case is acquired, (6) some issues of concern when investigating an incident, (7) some general comments, and (8) some questions related to this module.

Module #2: A "Big Picture" of the Legal System from the Viewpoint of the Technical Consultant/Expert Witness
This module summarizes the legal system to enable the technical consultant/expert witness to understand the process that leads to a trial, the steps involved in trying a case before a judge or jury, the ways in which the technical consultant/expert witness can assist their employer-attorney, and the types of interactions with opposing attorneys that the expert witness can anticipate as the case progresses.

Module #3: Testimony by the Expert Witness
This modules provides guidance for testimony as an expert witness.

Module #4: The Experiences of Others

This module presents the experiences and opinions of other technical consultants/expert witnesses and the writer's critique of these experiences and opinions. Three references are cited and reviewed. The writer has found each reference to have been extremely helpful. The reader may desire to obtain a personal copy of each reference.

Module #5: Case Study
This module includes a case study and practical questions related to the case. You may receive (2) additional PDH credits upon completing the written assignment in Module #5 and remitting $49 through PDH Course G151.

Once you finish studying the above course content you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered professional engineer. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.