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What is a Maritime Expert Witness?

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  • Written By: R. Stamm
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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A maritime expert witness is a person who possesses knowledge of matters relating to the construction of ships, marine shipping, or navigation and who offers this expertise in a court of law. These persons prepare an analysis of situations and present the information to judges and juries. They offer general insight on the cause of an accident, reconstruct the events of an accident and determine environmental threats. They also analyze the cause of personal injury suits and product liability suits. Experts may be hired through maritime expert witness services.

By definition, an expert witness is a person who has specific knowledge in a given field and is called to testify in a court of law. The court permits this person to testify without having been present at the scene of the crime due to specialized training or experience in a given field. Unlike other witnesses, who are only permitted to give testimony based on observed facts, an expert witness gives technical testimony based primarily on expertise and opinions. The court allows either the prosecuting or defense attorneys to use such testimony to support claims made by the prosecution or the defense.

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A maritime expert witness analyzes the cause of marine casualties and personal injuries during litigation for either the defendant or the plaintiff. An expert witness may be called to testify in environmental cases and offer analysis on the threat of hazardous materials such as lead, toxic Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and other toxic heavy metals either aboard the ship or at the ship yard. This person may be called to recreate the technical events causing an accident for a judge or jury. In cases involving personal injury, an expert witness can provide testimony and analysis on the design, construction, and operations to determine the cause of the injury. An expert witness is useful in product liability cases and can help determine whether an accident was due to faulty ship design or construction, management of the ship, or maritime operations.

Services are available to offer expert witnesses when maritime accidents occur and the cause is unclear. An exceptional maritime expert witness service should provide the client with knowledge of fundamental maritime principals to further the case and enhance the appreciation of juries and courts. The service should conduct analysis either supporting or defending claims and prepare reports for litigation. The analysis should cover each phase of design, construction, maintenance and operation of either the ship yard or the ship.

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