By: Irena Kosturska

Simply put, the role of a construction expert witness is a professional, expert individual who is contracted to provide independent evidence regarding legal construction disputes within a court or tribunal setting. The expert witness must be substantially qualified with technical knowledge of the construction industry, estimating costs and lawful standards. Expert witnesses must be registered as quantity surveyors to ensure they have the relevant expertise to create an accurate assessment. Throughout the assessment process, the expert witness will work with the tribunal or court to generate a detailed report regarding the details of the dispute and provide their expert opinion on the outcome.

Due to the intricate details of cost estimating for large development projects, construction expert witnesses are often required for legal dispute cases to ensure an accurate and just outcome occurs. The judge of the tribunal or court may not be familiar with specifics in construction law. An expert witness will be retained by a lawyer representing one of the parties within the dispute. However, it is not the role of the expert to try and aid the party they are hired by. Instead, they must remain completely unbiased and independent. If they do not rule in favour of the party employing them, they are not doing a poor job.

What is a construction dispute?

Most construction disputes involve a monetary aspect. This could be regarding incomplete work or work completed to improper standards, leading to faulty or defective results. A quantity surveyor is needed due to their expertise in cost estimation services regarding construction processes and can accurately provide cost details to rectify the situation. To resolve the dispute, the expert witness will generate a comprehensive report. This document will detail an overview of the issues, facts and calculations used by the expert witness to form an opinion on the results of the dispute. Thorough cost reports and recommendations are also included so the tribunal will have an accurate depiction of how the expert witness came to their conclusion.

Responsibility and Qualifications of a construction expert witness

Significant responsibility comes with the role of a construction expert witness. Not only does the individual require expertise in the relevant field, but they must also have experience in the specific subject of the dispute. According to The Evidence Act, Section 76 – The Opinion Rule – “If a person has specialised knowledge based on the personal training, study or experience, the Opinion Rule does not apply to evidence of an opinion of that person that is wholly or substantially based on that knowledge.” A court can reject evidence provided by the witness if there is sufficient reasoning that the expert is not qualified enough to provide accurate information on the dispute. This may be due to the witness not having proficient experience or expertise in the matter at hand. It is the duty of the expert witness to restrict their services to matters only of which they can provide ‘specialised knowledge’ to ensure their report is accepted within the court.

Conflict of Interest

To ensure impartiality between the two parties within the construction dispute, it is important for the expert witness to have no ‘financial or tangible connection’ with either party within the dispute. Conflict of interest regulation is incredibly strict. Court documents or reports from a witness that has been found to have an undeclared conflict of interest with a party will not be accepted as suitable evidence. Potential conflicts of interest must be declared to the relevant parties at the earliest opportunity.

Construction expert witness codes

Construction expert witnesses must adhere to a strict, publicly available code. This ensures that all parties involved are aware of the witness’s impartial role and can’t be hired for the purpose of siding with the hiring party. The code specifies the expert’s role in serving the court rather than the hiring party. Often, the witness will require evidence of their impartiality and how they came to any conclusions throughout the documentation and reporting process.

Estimating services in Melbourne

At Accent Estimating, we pride ourselves on providing reliable and detailed budgetary estimating services on construction projects. Our experienced team, including quantity surveyors, will assure accurate information and support to all builders and contractors, to help streamline the development process and ensure all parties involved are getting a fair deal. 

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.