Those who wish to become a fire expert witness must have a background beyond reproach so that their testimony remains unquestionably credible. In addition, they should have experience as a firefighter and a fire inspector. Fire expert witnesses are used in criminal and civil court proceedings in which determining the cause of a fire is an important part of the court case. They are hired by defense attorneys, district attorneys, and civil suit attorneys to give their cases credibility. To become a fire expert witness, you must prepare by getting the proper education as well as experience.
Check with the fire department where you wish to become a fire expert witness to determine how to become a firefighter. Take the necessary steps to get accepted to the firefighters' academy and get hired on by the department of your choice. You must complete the academy successfully to be placed at a firehouse. Once assigned to a squad, work as a firefighter, keeping records of your experiences to use as an expert.
Study the necessary path to become a fire inspector and take the appropriate steps to attain that position. Depending on the department that employs you, that may include specific education requirements, a certain number or years on the force, or attaining specified certifications. Following your promotion to fire inspector, keep records of all investigations to refer back to as needed for future court cases. Check with your department to be sure it allows you to market your services as a fire expert witness.
Develop and maintain relationships with local attorneys. Let them know you are available as a fire expert witness and what your hourly rate for trial preparation and testimony will cost. Set your prices by calling other fire expert witnesses and getting price quotes. Undercutting their prices by a small amount will help you get your foot in the door. Raise your prices once you begin building a reputation as a credible expert witness.
Keep careful record of the number of fire inspections you perform on the job and the number of successes you have in solving the cases. These figures will be important both in getting hired by attorneys and while on the stand under examination and cross examination, as they will lend validity to your expert abilities. Develop a policy of complete honesty on the stand. Your business as a fire expert witness will be more successful if you have the reputation of always telling the truth.