We’ve all heard about expert witness testimony in court trials and hearings where a professional persons is called to testify or provide their expert knowledge in a specific field. So what is a human factors expert witness and why are they so important to provide information to a judge and jury?
Firstly, HFE witnesses work mainly in litigation cases or lawsuits where personal injury or product liability are in question. In other words, where one party sues another (usually a company, corporation or other entity) for damages that occurred due to an accident, neglect, actions or inaction of a third party.
Secondly, it is important to understand that an HFE, similar to a regular expert witness, is there to inform the jury on a topic that they may think they understand but don’t really have the full picture of. They are therefore normally experts in a certain field as well as having the ability to take human factors into account.
This is where the human factor part of the job comes into play. A HFE takes into account how human beings interact with their environments specifically related to machinery, equipment, tools, products, consumer goods etc. in any scenario. They take into account factors like how humans perceive their environment as well as their mental and physical capabilities and restrictions in their interactions.
The study of these interactions allows a human factors expert witness to reconstruct a series of events that led to the personal injury, damage to property or product liability claim. They bring to the fore seemingly unrelated factors and take into account cause and effect as well as actions and reactions.
They also take into account time as a factor in human interactions and look back months or even years to establish a chain of events that led to a specific event rather than a lone event in isolation. It is often these additional circumstances that contributed to the main event in some way.
In fact, HFE’s are often employed by large corporations to provide safety and security protocols for employees, consumers and visitors to their premises. They assist in predicting where accidents, injuries, product liability or even equipment failure are most likely to occur by monitoring and evaluating the human factor in the workplace.
There are many examples of how HFE testimony has provided a jury with the information they need to arrive at an informed decision. For example, it follows that a piece of work equipment that has resulted in injuries before is likely to result in future injuries unless the reason for the injuries are addressed or safety precautions are put in place to take into account the human factor and reduce the likelihood of injury being sustained in the future.
There are many different companies that provide HFE witnesses for hire to assist in cases where their expert knowledge can provide a jury with additional information or explain how an injury, damage to property or product liability claim came about. These witnesses can mainly be found in the forensics industry.