Responding to the Growing Needs of Transportation Legal Services

July 09, 2014

As the nation’s transportation infrastructure has evolved and become more sophisticated, so have the legal issues that arise from it. These range from traffic accidents and geometric roadway design to public rights-of-way, property condemnation and standards of care for transit areas.

When attorneys need expertise in these types of cases, they call upon transportation engineering and research professionals like Dr. John Mason, Ph.D., PE. A longtime teaming partner with KAI and currently Vice President for Research & Economic Development at Auburn University, Dr. Mason has decades of experience providing expert testimony, research and opinions in scores of cases.

Over the years, Dr. Mason has watched KAI’s transportation legal services grow as the firm advanced its work in pedestrian and bike planning, roundabout design, street signal design and operation, research and other services that often are key in risk management and tort liability cases.

“KAI has the expertise from so many years of doing this kind of work at the grassroots level,” Dr. Mason says. “They also have great credibility because they have done so much of the research and written so many of the reports that the legal profession relies on in these types of cases.”

KAI recently bolstered its transportation legal services with the addition of Matthew Manjarrez, PE, an associate engineer in the firm’s Sacramento office. Matthew earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1995 before joining Fehr & Peers. While he enjoyed his work there, Matthew was increasingly intrigued by the legal aspects of the profession.

“I figured my legal interests would be satisfied by reading John Grisham novels and watching ‘Law and Order’ and the like on television, and then I saw that there was an opportunity to combine my transportation engineering experience with my interest in the legal system,” he says.

Matthew gained experience as an expert witness in forensic traffic engineering for personal injury cases while working at Boster, Kobayashi & Associates. He has served as a technical expert in legal matters involving vehicular, transit, bicycle and pedestrian safety issues.

As a member of KAI’s staff, Matthew also performs technical evaluations of freeways, interchanges, local roadways, bikeways, and parking lots to determine if they have been appropriately designed and operated. Matthew focuses on educating attorneys and other legal professionals about basic transportation engineering concepts so they can effectively evaluate, execute and decide cases. As an expert witness, he utilizes demonstrative exhibits that clearly depict engineering concepts, findings and data in an effective visual manner.

“I am most excited about the opportunity at KAI to continue developing as a well-rounded engineer,” he says. “My work as a forensic traffic engineer providing expert consultation and testimony will be strengthened as I also participate in state-of the-practice highway design, traffic operations, and transportation safety projects. This is the best of both worlds.”

Chris Brehmer, PE, a KAI principal engineer and a member of the Transportation Research Board’s Tort Liability and Risk Management Committee, is Matthew’s mentor and says he enjoys the knowledge exchange they share. “It’s been a two-way opportunity for me to learn more about transportation legal services and, in turn, I’ve been helping Matthew acclimate to Kittelson’s staff and culture,” Chris says. “I would say the mentoring has gone both ways, which is unique and has been really nice.”

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