Engineering Expert Witness and Legal Support
Initial Case Evaluation
A potential client has a compelling case, however you’re not sure there is supporting evidence. Attorney clients ask Cissell Investigative Engineering LLC (CIE) to perform a simple fact check for a case. You need to know how strong the case is forensically and you want to document the situation before memory lapses and physical changes take their toll. One case we recently worked on involved a highway site where a person was seriously injured. Fortunately, CIE was on scene and the site was documented just days before compelling evidence was removed.
Highway engineers (I did) often visit an accident site and will order additional safety measures be implemented or defects to be resolved. The efforts are usually in response to improving safety. It interests the investigator and attorney in two ways, one is the loss of actual evidence, the other is the lack of any action may prove indifference and negligence, particularly in a high accident location.
Here is an example of a case working for the defense – Motorcyclist with right-of-way t-Bones a car resulting in significant injuries, policy limits of $500000. at risk. Findings – MC traveling too fast (55+ mph for posted 45 mph), downhill grade of 10% and poor sightline represents poor highway design for posted speed limit, no warning signs, MC dropped bike and slid into auto, had he maintained control of bike and initiated proper braking and maneuvering accident could be avoided.
Other cases involving trip and fall situations can often result in a construction defect and many times it’s just a personal imbalance. Our digital archives includes building codes back to the early 20th century.
Investigative Engineering – Legal Support
Evaluating the case for causes is the first task we are often requested to perform. This effort identifies not only the potential supporting evidence but also many of the potential unresolved alternatives. Often CIE is brought in later in the case where we are asked to evaluate a plaintiff’s or defenses expert report. CIE helps to qualify the work performed by others. CIE usually critiques the work for the following, understanding that the attorney is the quarterback and the questions are often limited :
- Was the investigation conducted using Scientific Methods and accepted methodology
- Are the methods used supported by research
- Are alternative explanations resolved
- Is there evidence to support hypothesis or is it conjecture
- Are the conclusions stated the most likely
- What examinations were not performed, and why not
- What are the qualifications of the expert
- How was the evidence handled and preserved
The outcome enables the attorney to make sound decisions and strategies to serve their client. We have often helped to brief the attorney on the technical aspects of a case in a workshop environment as well as suggest specialized experts to support a part of the case.
CIE’s investigators are trained to evaluate an assignment with a multi-discipline approach. The subrogation starts with CIE’s trained multi-disciplined investigator evaluating all potential causes and systematically documenting and eliminating alternative explanations. The methods we use closely parallel fire investigations, often using pattern analysis and the scientific methods.
A critical task in successful subrogation is the proper identification, documentation and handling of evidence and the chain of custody. Legal cases often take years to work through the system, CIE assures that the evidence chain will remain unspoiled.
CIE often takes the lead in the technical investigation. Support from outside resources is provided by a vast network of affiliates. When a specialized need arises we have confidence that our network will have qualified expertise.
Reviewing other experts reports, either the opposing side or same side, allows the attorney or adjuster confirmation and confidence in selecting a strategy. Peer review increases the percentages for success, it raises the bar and reduces omissions and surprises.
You wouldn’t recommend going to trial without an attorney, nor should you depose an expert without guidance. CIE’s experts will guide you in your preparation including :
- Qualifications, experience, education and knowledge basis
- Investigation Methods, poor methods are still common
- Report Critique
- Deposition technical questions
- Prepare attorney on relevant technical subjects
Few cases make it to trial, however, if a trial is imminent you want a solid presentation and know the weak areas as well as your most compelling arguments. CIE will assist by preparing a table of questions with answers, prior statements and how it may affect your case. Questions may be for direct and/or cross examination and you can make the selections that best fits your strategy. A recent successful case CIE prepared an attorney for only required cross-examination of the opposing expert, we were prepared to provide disputing testimony, however, the questions provided ended up proving our case and the judge ruled completely in our favor.