A forensic economist is a person who applies economic principles to legal situations. Forensic economists are often consulted in civil suits when economic damages are involved, although they can also play a role in criminal cases which involve economic harm or damages. These economics professionals usually have graduate degrees in economics paired with a number of years of experience in the field, and they may work as professors of economics in addition to being available for legal consultations.
There are an array of settings in which a forensic economist might be called upon. The classic example is a civil case in which someone is suing for damages, such as a case in which someone injured in a car accident is demanding reparations. The forensic economist can do things like arriving at a true estimate of lost potential earnings. This estimate is used to determine an amount in damages which would be fair, given the case and the situation.
Forensic economists can assess situations and arrive at information about their economic impact. This can include predictions of lost profits, lost potential wages, and so forth. Forensic economists may also be involved in determinations of the value of lost lives, looking at the possible contributions someone might have made to society to assist with the awarding of damages in a situation such as a wrongful death case.
In some cases, a forensic economist may be called upon to testify as an expert witness. The economist lays out his or her work in a way which is accessible to the jury, explaining how a particular number was arrived at and providing supporting evidence for a claim being made by one side or the other. In other instances, forensic economists will be consulted by lawyers while they are developing a case, to gather information which will be useful in presenting their side, and a deposition may be taken so that the economist does not have to appear in court.
Working as a forensic economist requires a knowledge of the legal system and a high degree of personal ethics in addition to training in the field of economics. Some forensic economists find full time employment for their skills, while others may offer forensic consulting as a sideline. People who intend to serve as expert witnesses also need to be involved in professional organizations and research to keep their credentials high so that they will be respected on the stand.