provide a written report that includes all
opinions, the basis for the opinions, and the
information that was considered in coming
to the opinions. The report must include
exhibits, such as photographs or diagrams,
that will be used in trial to summarize or
support the opinions. The witness must
also provide a listing of all publications
authored by the witness for the preceding
10 years and a listing of all other cases in
which the individual has testified in trial
and deposition for the preceding four years.
An expert witness must base his or
her opinion on “sufficient facts or data.”
The expert has to convince the court that
those facts provide a solid basis for his or
her opinions. An expert witness may not
rely only on instincts or his or her experience in the industry.
Federal Rule of Evidence 702 is a guide-
line that expert witnesses are expected to
understand. An expert must determine the
set of facts and data that will support any
conclusions reached. To guide an expert
witness, Rule 702 adds that an expert’s
testimony must be “the product of reliable
principles and methods.” As an expert
in the field, he or she should already be
familiar with the principles and methods
used by others in the field. An expert
witness has to be prepared to reference
and explain any commonly accepted regu-
lations, standards, or guidelines that govern
The experts usually are
involved in all processes
of legal proceedings. They
are indispensable, since
their task is to explain to
the judge or jurors what happened, how
it happened, and how it could have been
avoided, using comprehensive scientific
methods understandable to the court.
Experts represent very different fields
and branches of science: fire and explosions,
chemistry, mechanical engineering, motor
vehicle reconstruction, biomechanics, structural and civil engineering, planes, vehicle
and vessel design and performance, sociology, skiing industry, water recreation
industry, and many more. They must carry
out the analysis of motor vehicle accidents, industrial accidents, and construction accidents. They also handle accidents
happening on the water and in the air and
accidents associated with fire, explosions,
electric shock, and many others.
Both sides of the litigation—the plain-tiff/prosecution and the defendant—hire
expert witnesses to provide their professional opinions.
Who Is an Expert Witness?
The expert is a person who, because of
education and years of experience, can
help the judge and jury to understand the
technical aspects of the case.
An expert witness is someone who is
called upon to testify because of specialized
knowledge or training that makes the expert
knowledgeable about a particular subject
matter. This person is generally used during
a trial to prove or disprove a claim.
There are several expert witness qualifications that one must meet in order to be
considered as an expert witness in a trial
Although there is no set standard for
being considered, determining who is
eligible to act as an expert witness usually
requires an examination of the person’s
educational background, years of experi-
ence, and knowledge in the field of the
particular case being tried. Any combina-
tion of these qualifications will be taken
under consideration when choosing expert
witnesses for a case.
Anyone who testifies as an expert witness
is required to provide certain information
regarding his or her qualifications, typically
in the form of a resume or curriculum vitae.
This information includes education, training,
and experience and is provided to opposing
counsel as part of the required witness disclosures. There are fairly few procedural rules in
place that require experts to provide information beyond what is normally included in a
resume or curriculum vitae.
Expert Witness Requirements
In various legal settings, from court to arbitra-
tion and mediation, any person who has rele-
vant “knowledge, skills, experience, training,
or education” may qualify to testify as an
expert, according to Rule 702 of the Federal
Rules of Evidence. However, a productive
expert witness has to know more than just
his or her own area of experience. An expert
witness has to understand the overall legal
framework. The rule also specifies that the
expert witness has to apply that knowledge
and those experiences in ways to qualify him
or her as the expert and his or her work.
Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure requires an expert witness to
Who Can Be a Forensic Expert?
Many professionals, including engineers, are interested to know what it takes to be an expert witness and who can be one.
BY RICHARD M. ZIERNICKI, PH.D., P.E.
Need a Forensic
Currently, the National Academy of
Forensic Engineers is using a voluntary mentorship program where
senior forensic engineers will be
available to mentor an engineer who
is new or less experienced in the
forensic engineering vocation. For
details, contact Paul Stephens at