Professional & Forensic Engineers and Expert Witnesses

by Robert O. Peruzzi, PhD, PE

Professional Engineers, and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

Pennsylvania enacted the “Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist Registration Law” in 1945. Wyoming, in 1907, was the first state to enact an engineering licensure law. Now every state, through licensing, grants only Professional Engineers (PEs) the authority to offer their services to the public or sign and seal engineering plans. Several steps are required to become a licensed PE. First, one must earn an engineering degree from an accredited engineering program. One must then pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, earning the title Engineer in Training (EIT). Four years of progressive engineering experience are required before one may take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Upon passing, one may obtain a PE license. Continuing education is a requirement for maintaining a PE license in Pennsylvania and other states. There are exemptions for engineering licensure for employees in certain situations, but a PE license is a legal requirement to practice as an engineering consultant. See www.NSPE.org. We have an active PE chapter right here in the Lehigh Valley. See www.LVPSPE.org.

Forensic Engineers, and the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE)

Forensic engineering is defined by NAFE as the ‘application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution’. NAFE is a chartered affinity group of the NSPE. Its members and associate members must be licensed PEs and have experience in forensic engineering case preparation. Full members must have testified as an expert witness in at least two cases. NAFE has continuing education requirements similar to NSPE. NAFE membership enhances one’s credibility as an expert witness. See www.NAFE.org.

Expert Witnesses

Legal definition: “An expert witness is a witness who has knowledge beyond that of the ordinary lay person enabling him/her to give testimony regarding an issue that requires expertise to understand. Experts are allowed to give opinion testimony which a non-expert witness may be prohibited from testifying to.” In addition to engineering, expert witnesses practice in areas such as medical, business/financial, human resources, family/custody, insurance, police/penal, real estate and more. There is no defined requirement for declaring oneself an expert; however, the expert and his/her retaining attorney must convince the court of his or her expertise.

Career Progression

Engineers of any engineering discipline can and should enhance their career by obtaining their PE license, whether required by their present employer or not. Engineers well-established in their careers may see expert witness cases fall into their lap without any effort. To seriously pursue this path, search online for “Expert Witness Training.” A licensed PE with some expert witness experience may apply for NAFE membership to further establish their career as a Forensic Engineer and Expert Witness.

This article appeared in Lehigh Valley Business, Focus on Engineering Week, February 20, 2017

Robert O. Peruzzi, PhD, PE - Electronics Consultant, Expert Witness

Robert O. Peruzzi, PhD, PE

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National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE), Associate Member
Engineer of the Year 2017 -- LVPSPE

Robert O. Peruzzi, PhD, PE
Peruzzi@RPeruzzi.com

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