All About Groundwater Expert Witnesses

by JRO on January 8, 2014

Expert witnesses are often called upon to testify in trials. Sometimes their testimony is a key factor in determining the outcome of litigation. Since cases involving the contamination of groundwater often come to trial, groundwater expert witnesses play an important role in providing information to the court.

What an Expert Witness Is

An expert witness is someone a court recognizes as an authority on a topic relevant to the subject of the trial. Expert witnesses must submit documentation that proves they have the education and experience to testify as an authority. The qualifications necessary in a particular case depend on the needs of the court. An expert witness does not have to have specific knowledge of the case at hand or of legal procedure in general but rather must have specific knowledge, training, or experience that helps inform the court. Courts are liberal in reviewing experts’ qualifications, but if the knowledge needed is specific, someone with only general knowledge would not qualify as an expert witness. Experts who are called upon to offer opinions must explain the methodology that caused them to arrive at the opinion. Sometimes expert witnesses testify, but in some cases they conduct examinations or analyses without testifying.

Credentials of a Groundwater Expert Witness

Because of the technical nature of the testimony required of groundwater expert witnesses, they often have advanced degrees in subjects related to the physical sciences, specifically in hydrology and the environment. Many have worked in civil engineering, hydraulic engineering, environmental engineering, or water resource management. Most have extensive experience as groundwater expert witnesses, appearing on behalf of both plaintiffs and defense teams, investigating, analyzing, evaluating, conducting studies, writing reports, consulting with counsel, and offering testimony. The cases groundwater expert witnesses become involved in involve damage claims ranging from a few thousand dollars to many millions of dollars.

When a Groundwater Expert Witness Is Needed

Groundwater expert witnesses are usually called during litigation concerning groundwater contamination. These cases might involve agricultural sites that use chemicals that run off into neighboring property, septic systems that leak waste into the ground and contaminate neighborhoods, damaged storage tanks from businesses or factories that release toxic materials, or overflowing landfills that contaminate the local supply of drinking water. Groundwater expert witnesses are also consulted in cases involving sewer and septic systems, pollution of water resources, problems with storm water and flooding, erosion issues, wells and well water, mold, overflows, drainage, pumping systems, and hazardous waste. These cases often seek damages from situations arising from environmental crimes, property damage, illegal facilities, personal injury, and wrongful death.

If an expert witness is asked to provide research, explanation, and analysis for one side of a case, that witness is protected by attorney/client privilege. The information that the expert discovers does not need to be revealed in court. However, an expert witness who testifies in court is no longer protected by this privilege. The expert witness’s identity and any documents the witness created are available to the other party in the dispute. For this reason, an experienced lawyer often advises the expert not to put anything into writing, so that the information the expert compiles is not available to the opposition. Since groundwater expert witnesses are usually involved in litigation of one party against another, they need to be aware of these restrictions, which is why experienced expert witnesses are always preferred.

Barry Christiansen is a freelance writer based in Omaha, Nebraska. Barry suggests that those who’d like to learn more about groundwater expert witness view the helpful resources from

Freelance legal writer based in the greater metro area of Seattle, WA.

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