Both civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions make use of expert witnesses on a regular basis in order to explain complicated concepts to the jury or convince the jury that evidence is relevant and important to the case. For anyone who hopes to become an automotive expert witness, he or she should have a combination of education and experience in the automotive industry. Exactly what qualifications are necessary to become an automotive expert witness will depend on the jurisdiction, as well as the specific issue within the automotive field about which the witness plans to testify.
An automotive expert may be someone who is called upon to testify in a civil trial for or against an automotive manufacturer in a negligence or product liability lawsuit. On the other hand, an automotive expert could be needed in a criminal prosecution to testify regarding issues surrounding how a car performs in a pursuit, or whether a vehicle shows signs of forced entry among other possible testimony. As a result of the diversity of possible reasons for the expert's testimony, the requirements to become an automotive expert witness may vary.
In a civil trial for negligence or product liability, the path to become an automotive expert witness will likely include an advanced degree in automotive engineering or something similar. Liability in a civil lawsuit based on design or manufacturing defects, for example, will require the testimony of someone with a high degree of knowledge regarding how the automobile was designed and manufactured. In addition to a master's or doctorate degree in an engineering field, a potential expert should have a significant amount of experience in the field itself, preferably with supervisory experience.
If a potential automotive expert witness is needed to testify regarding more practical aspects of a vehicle, then an advanced degree in engineering is likely not necessary. Instead, a person who plans to become an automotive expert witness regarding more practical aspects of a vehicle will generally need to be a certified mechanic with a substantial amount of work experience in the field. Again, supervisory experience is always helpful when attempting to qualify as an expert witness.
Within the United States, individual courts make a case-by-case, and witness-by-witness, decision with regard to who may testify as an expert witness. As a rule, the judge will want to hear testimony from the potential witness regarding his or her educational background and work experience. In addition, most courts want to hear some indication that the potential witness is regarded as an expert by his or her peers before making a determination.