By: Luka Dickson

Becoming a construction claims expert witness can be a steep learning curve. One of the most essential aspects is learning what to avoid during the report writing process. There is a code of conduct that must be adhered to by expert witnesses to maintain the level of professionalism and standards required by the role.

The report is one of, if not the most important contribution the expert witness provides to the construction claim. Therefore, it is essential for it to adhere to all correct rules and regulations, whilst remaining an accurate and impartial source of information. This will ensure a fair outcome for all parties involved.

What is a construction claims expert witness report?

A construction claims expert witness is an individual contracted by a party within a construction dispute to provide independent evidence on the appropriate outcome of a claim within a tribunal setting. The witness must have cost estimating qualifications, and come from a position of expertise, such as a quantity surveyor. The witness is tasked with writing a detailed report assessing all of the information, facts, and figures regarding the dispute and produces an opinion on what the fair monetary outcome of the case should be. (Who owes money, how much, etc.) This opinion is presented within a report, along with all of the details and assessments that the witness made to reach the conclusion. Finally, this opinion is presented in court and used as evidence by the tribunal.

Keeping the intended role in mind, what are some things that should be avoided when writing an expert witness report?

Unbalanced Advice:

This can come in many forms, the most obvious is for an expert witness to become an advocate for their party rather than an unbiased interpreter. Despite being hired by one of the parties, the code of conduct specifies the expert witness’s role is to serve the court rather than advocate for an individual party. They are not a lawyer and will be asked to provide evidence of impartiality and how they came to any conclusions throughout the report writing process. Any facts or conclusions they assess that appear to be incorrect can be disputed and discussed with the case solicitor. During cross examination, the construction claims expert witness must answer all questions directly, even if this includes exposing something their client is trying to hide or defeating their client’s case.

Unbalanced advice can also come in the form of advice provided to a client. It is essential for the expert witness to express their real opinion and the truth on any issues throughout the case. This includes informing the client when they may be taking a monetary loss within the claim or have ended up on the losing side of a deal.

Construction claims expert witnesses are not lawyers.

As mentioned, expert witnesses are not legal experts. They do not have legal education or training. This means no legal advice should be provided to clients by an expert witness. They should not be providing opinions on aspects of the case outside their scope of understanding. This can be seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of the case and could lead to serious consequences for the witness as that would be considered a display of bias.

Lacking Professionalism.

A level of professionalism must be displayed within the report and court appearance. Expert witnesses should always maintain composure in the report and cross-examination box. This includes answering all questions directly and providing brief answers to questions during cross examination. The tribunal may not always be familiar with details of construction jargon and ask the expert witness to provide clarification to help understand aspects of the dispute. There is no need to draw out and ramble within an answer that could be brief and succinct. The expert witness report should maintain a professional tone and avoid accusatory, inflammatory language and overt aggression. Personal attacks and character assessments must be avoided as these can be interpreted as bias and discredit the findings of the report. Witnesses should always maintain their impartiality despite any pressure from clients that may misinterpret their role as a member of their legal team.

Poor quality report writing

As with any report, the result should be proof-read by the expert witness before being submitted to the tribunal. Ensure that all questions asked within the brief have been answered appropriately; all the evidence has been assessed and that you have come to a fair conclusion. If another person’s work has been included within the report at any capacity,  it must be declared and they must be credited.

Estimating Services in Sydney

At Accent Estimating we provide detailed and reliable budget estimating services for construction projects. Our team of quantity surveyors will speed up your development process and ensure a fair deal for all parties.

If you would like to find out more about our estimating services available in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, call us on 0413 953 869 or fill out the contact form on our website.