What is an Electrical Expert Witness?

G. Wiesen

An electrical expert witness is someone who works with legal professionals by consulting on cases and even testifying in court hearings or trials. This type of witness can consult with a lawyer prior to a case, to help him or her understand certain aspects of a case or build part of an argument, as well as work with the lawyer once a trial is under way. While this sort of expert witness may have some understanding of legal matters, he or she will primarily be an expert in electrical engineering and design. An electrical expert witness could be involved in other sorts of investigations as well, such as investigating automotive systems failures and recalls or aeronautical accidents.

An electrical engineer, who can be an electrical expert witness, working.
An electrical engineer, who can be an electrical expert witness, working.

With advances in technology, and the potential for abuses or accidents involving that type of technology, it has become increasingly important for judges and juries to understand such technology. This is where an electrical expert witness often becomes part of a trial or criminal investigation. Attorneys often need the assistance of this sort of expert not only in testifying in a case, but also in fully understanding a case. Though an attorney may spend years learning about and practicing law, he or she is not typically prepared to explain how an electrical malfunction may occur.

An attorney may call upon an electrical expert witness to testify in court.
An attorney may call upon an electrical expert witness to testify in court.

An electrical expert witness makes up for this lack of knowledge by providing his or her expertise. For example, if there is a criminal or civil case involving a fire in a building, then how the fire started is typically of great importance. Even if the cause of the fire can be proven to be an electrical issue, this does not necessarily indicate culpability on the part of an electrician or builder. An electrical expert witness can be used to prove or disprove that an accident occurred that could have been otherwise prevented, thereby establishing or refuting negligence on the part of a contractor.

An electrical expert witness may have a background in residential wiring.
An electrical expert witness may have a background in residential wiring.

Anyone who wishes to become an electrical expert witness will typically have a background in electrical engineering and will usually have worked as an electrician. He or she may have a specialty or extensive knowledge of a particular aspect of electrical engineering, such as residential or commercial building wiring, testing of electrical systems, aeronautical engineering, or automotive electrical engineering. An electrical expert witness may also work as an electrician, a professor at a university, or a consultant on accidents and similar cases. It is usually important that he or she be able to communicate concisely, since expert testimony often has to ensure that a judge or jury is able to understand complex engineering concepts.

A background in electrical engineering is generally required to become an electrical expert witness.
A background in electrical engineering is generally required to become an electrical expert witness.

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