Anytime you hear engineering experts talk about their profession, you will always hear the same request, “get us involved early”. Some of the reasons for this appeal are because it usually makes the engineer’s job easier, but the major benefits of getting an expert involved early are reaped by the engineer’s client. The usual reason cited for waiting to retain, or even talking with an expert until the very last minute is the desire to save the client money. Ironically, that’s the exact reason why you should speak with an expert early. As well as increasing your chances of success in any end game litigation, engineering experts can utilize their expertise to illuminate the process and eliminate many costly false trails.
Even if somebody has been practicing law for 25 years or been adjusting claims since the Carter administration, they will always have cases where they run into something new or a topic they haven’t researched. An early consultation may save you a considerable amount of time and money. You may see exercise equipment in your gym every day (or maybe three or four times a month), but that doesn’t mean when an incident comes across your desk that involves an accident on a treadmill that you have all your bases covered. With a quick call to an engineering expert you may speak with an engineer that has worked on half a dozen treadmill accidents in the last few years. You may get a quick download on the different manufacturers involved and perhaps some design or safety issues each manufacturer may have wrestled with. A ten minute, no-cost phone conversation can save you and your client valuable time and money.
Often engineering experts are brought in after the depositions of key parties such as witnesses and opposing experts. As they are going through the depositions the engineer will lament the fact that “this question wasn’t asked” or “the opposing expert wasn’t challenged on this point”. Consulting with your engineering expert before the discovery process and getting the engineer’s input on questions to ask can be a very powerful technique. For example, a biomechanical engineer can arm you with the questions necessary to fix a driver’s position pre-accident. This one, seemingly small point, may make all the difference in a case.
The best engineering experts will have three levels of experience/expertise that you can lean upon. First they will have their degree(s) and the course work and studies needed to complete them. When your case involves broken bones, it’s an assuring benefit that the biomechanical engineer you’re working with wrote his master’s thesis on bone fracture and failure mechanisms.
Secondly is the experience your engineering expert has had out in the workplace. If your case involves an accident that occurred in a maritime environment, having a qualified engineer is good, but having a qualified engineer that is a retired naval officer that spent twenty years in and around ships is much more powerful. If you are investigating an industrial mishap you would want your expert familiar with the safety programs in the manufacturing process.
Finally, is the experience the engineer has working as an expert. If you have a construction defect case that involves stucco, it’s comforting to know that your engineering expert has examined and testified on multiple stucco cases up and down the east coast. You want your forklift expert to not only understand the engineering behind the forklift, but to also to have investigated similar previous accidents.
But, all this experience isn’t doing you any good if it’s on the sidelines. No matter how outstanding your expert may be, you’ve limited how much they can assist you by waiting until the last minute to contact them. By getting an expert involved early you greatly increase your odds of success down the road, while often reducing cost in both the long and short term. For more information on CED experts, please contact one of our regional offices to speak with a case specialist.