Choosing an Elevator Expert Witness
By C. Stephen Carr, Ph.D.
When choosing an expert witness, everyone will agree that it is important to select the right one from the outset.
From working in this field for a decade, I have learned which credentials are absolutely necessary
to achieve results. They are:
1. In depth knowledge of the equipment,
Freedom from conflicts with the elevator
3. Accident reconstruction, education and experience.
In depth knowledge of
Your expert starts as your consultant
with guidance during discovery. If he is just learning the engineering details of the gear, he cannot possibly help
you in a timely fashion. And, working from “scientific principles” is simply insufficient. The more specific experience
he has, the better.
It is not necessary to have ‘hands-on’
experience. The architect does not need to lay bricks to know what the brick layer does. In fact, too much hands-on experience
with specific equipment can interfere with gaining a wider range of knowledge that is essential to get to the bottom of what
caused the accident.
Freedom from conflicts with the elevator industry
The challenge for the plaintiff is to find a truly qualified expert who will work for the plaintiff as the
elevator industry is a small, close-knit fraternity. Forget finding an expert with a history of 50/50 plaintiff /defense
work. There are only 4 ½ elevator companies on the defense side and they feed lots of work to the experts who
regularly work for them. If an expert crosses the line to the plaintiff’s side, he will never work again for the industry
which is his main source of income.
Accident reconstruction, education and experience
Finally, engineers designed the equipment and accidents result from
equipment failure and so failure analysis skills are essential. Many potential experts know how the equipment
works when it works properly but are lost when it is alleged that it functioned improperly. College degrees are
but one measure of the essential engineering and science training, but be certain the potential expert can ‘do the math’
of accident reconstruction.