The National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) was formed in 1982 to advance the engineer's ability to serve as an engineering consultant to members of the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law, mediation and arbitration proceedings.
To qualify for membership, an individual must be a Professional Engineer (PE) and have appropriate engineering education and experience. Experience must include actual experience in forensic engineering.
The Professional Engineer must be a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). The NSPE provides programs, conferences and meetings in which members have an opportunity to further their education and to meet and share with colleagues.
NSPE members have the opportunity to participate on the state and local level, where opportunities for leadership and professional recognition exist. Also, the practice division brings specialized engineering fields together to meet and share ideas.
The National Society of Professional Engineers supports the National Academy of Forensic Engineers in improving forensic investigations, analysis of cases, writing reports and giving effective depositions and court testimonies.
The National Academy of Forensic Engineers has three levels of membership, (1) Fellow, (2) Senior and (3) Member.
The membership bar is set very high for each level, especially the Fellow status. For Fellow status, an applicant must:
Litigation support is a specialized field of engineering. It requires experience in the engineering disciplines and knowledge of legal procedures. The National Academy of Forensic Engineers provides training for engineers in the legal process and how the legal system works.
Attorneys call on forensic engineers to explain the technical aspects to the judge and jury. An effective forensic engineer will take the time to interpret the technical in layman's terms. The technical world of the forensic engineer can get very complicated when dealing with engineering sciences in the investigation of accidents, incidents, failures and performance problems.
Many of the cases call for the forensic engineer to sit for depositions and to testify in court. The engineer understands and is able to work in both the engineering and the legal arenas.
The attorney wants the forensic engineer to determine the most probable cause of a failure or of an accident.
From the engineers' prospective, the forensic engineer performs investigations and reconstructions of the failures and accidents. He investigates how the accident happened, but not necessarily why the accident happened.
A forensic engineer must be willing to continue to study and learn. The learning curve is much higher for forensic engineers than the minimum requirements established by the engineering profession for maintenance of a professional engineering license. The National Academy of Forensic Engineers encourages members to advance their engineering expertise by expanding their education in their discipline.
The forensic engineer must continue to learn and grow in his field as a forensic engineer. For example, in a civil engineering practice, an engineer gets into a groove of doing the same types of projects for the same types of clients.
The forensic engineer never knows what type of case an attorney will bring to him next. When the type of case is the same, the questions requiring answers will often differ.
Working in the legal system can be a challenge for an engineer. The legal system involves the plaintiff attorney, the defense attorney (sometimes several), depositions, the discovery process, legal documents, meditations, arbitration, judges, juries, and trial testimonies. The National Academy of Forensic Engineers provides conventions, training and seminars to teach techniques for being an effective forensic engineer in the court system.
The civil legal process is set-up for settlement of cases before reaching the courtroom. This is accomplished through the discovery process. The forensic engineer never knows if a case will go to trial or be settled before reaching the courthouse steps.
It is the responsibility of the forensic engineer to investigate the case and form an opinion. Often, the expert for the opposing side will have a different opinion.
The opposing attorney has the right to depose each expert and to find out what the expert did and what his opinions are. These opinions are scrutinized by the expert on the other side and challenged by the opposing attorney.
Atlanta Engineering Services understands the need for forensic engineers in today's litigious society. We believe it is critical for trained engineers to go into the courtroom to explain the technical issues to the jury. And to explain the issues in terms that a jury can understand.
I have been given numerous depositions and court testimony. One thing I learned a long time ago is to "keep it simple." The members of the jury are not technically trained and the information should be explained in terms the jury can understand. When the jury understands all the testimony, they can make better decision.
Atlanta Engineering Services and The National Academy of Forensic Engineers is dedicated to supporting the judicial system by continued training, education and experience.
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