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,
from conflicts with the elevator industry, and
3. Accident reconstruction, education and experience.
In depth knowledge of the equipment
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.
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.
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.