An expert witness is a person whose opinion is admitted as evidence in a judicial hearing because of their special skills, experience and/or education, in a field of specialization.
This is contrary to the general rule that mere opinions are irrelevant in a court of law.
A Land Surveyor may be hired as an expert witness to perform one or more of the following functions:
Consultation – The surveyor gathers all relevant facts together with any necessary field investigations and calculations. He then provides a report to the lawyer, outlining his findings and recommendations. The lawyer with all facts in hand can now decide whether or not to continue the action
Case Preparation – If a case is to proceed to court a surveyor may assist the lawyer by conveying some basic understanding of the technical factors and preparing any maps or plans that are needed in presenting the evidence in court.
Trial Assistance – During a court hearing the surveyor may assist the lawyer by pointing out technical weaknesses in the oppositions’ case and suggesting possible questioning of opposing experts.
Court Testimony – Two main reasons why the testimony of an expert witness is called are to provide basic information to the court necessary for the understanding of the scientific or technical issues involved in the case and to provide opinions and conclusions if required.
As an expert on boundaries and measurement some typical situations in which a surveyor may be involved as a witness are:
- a dispute between a land owner and adjacent disposition holder (oil & gas facilities, access roads, rights-of-ways etc.)
- a dispute between adjacent land owners on property boundaries or locations of improvements
- a dispute between a land owner and the crown on the location of a water boundary
- a dispute involving a motor vehicle accident
- a dispute involving quantities and materials (earth, gravel, sand etc.)
- a dispute involving structural deformation or structural failure
- a dispute involving drainage and flooding
As a professional, an Alberta Land Surveyor is compelled to follow the Code of Ethics as stipulated in the Land Surveyors Act and must act accordingly in his role as an expert witness.