Ethical Dilemmas of Technical Forensic Practice

TitleEthical Dilemmas of Technical Forensic Practice
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsKardon, J, Schroeder, R, Ferrari, A
Book TitleForensic Engineering (2003)
Date Published2003
PublisherAmerican Society of Civil Engineers
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number978-0-7844-0692-2
AbstractForensic technical experts often describe themselves as objective and impartial, professing to arrive at the same opinion in a dispute regardless of whether their client is a plaintiff or a defendant. Why is it then that so often there are impartial, objective technical experts for both sides of a dispute, maintaining contradictory and mutually exclusive positions concerning a given situation? If all experts in a dispute are impartial and objective, and if, because of the discovery process, they all have access to the same set of facts, how can they hold different opinions? This paper examines this paradox of forensic technical testimony, and addresses several other ethical dilemmas of forensic engineering practice. For instance, can an expert ethically serve as an advocate for one side in a dispute? What ethical entanglements does a forensic engineer face when the client limits the involvement of the expert in the investigation of the facts? How does an expert witness fulfill the obligation of the oath to tell "the whole truth," after being given the contradictory instruction to "only answer the question posed?" This paper describes the process involved in providing technical forensic expert services, the role the technical expert plays in the execution of a lawsuit, and some of the ethical dilemmas the expert faces in that role.