Posted on

Forensic Engineering – Benefits & Drawbacks

Forensic engineering is defined by the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) as “the application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution.” These engineers serve as consultants to the legal profession and as expert witnesses in courts of law.

Benefits of Forensic Engineering

  • Interesting work
  • Low liability
  • High hourly rates
  • Advanced payment via retainer
  • Little competition

Drawbacks of Forensic Engineering

  • Can be stressful
  • Sometimes requires travel

Conclusion

Because litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable, I recommend adding “forensic engineering” to your consulting engineering practice.

Case Study – Conveyor Accident

One of my cases involved a man who injured his hand on a conveyer in a sub-zero walk-in ice cream freezer. I was a defense witness for the electrician who (may have) installed the electrical system for the conveyor. My investigation revealed that the “conveyor code” required that a safety pull cord be installed above the conveyer that, if pulled, would stop the conveyor. It was not installed. It was my opinion that the conveyor manufacturer was responsible for ensuring that this safety device was installed. A representative of the manufacturer inspected the installation after completion and approved it for operation with no mention of the missing safety device. This pull cord is not a requirement of the National Electrical Code and was not referenced in the NEC at the time of installation. (Subsequently, a reference has been added.) Unfortunately, the conveyor manufacturer, who was also a defendant in the case, settled before the trial.

As I entered the courtroom, the injured man stuck out his left hand for a handshake. I was caught by surprise and probably looked startled and embarrassed. During the trial, the injured man sat up front next to his pretty wife while she held his withered hand.

I believe that I delivered my direct testimony clearly and conveyed my opinion of the case accurately. I feel that I stood up well under cross-examination. But, at the request of the plaintiff’s attorney, the Judge directed me to stop referring to the defendant as “the electrician who may have installed the electrical work for the conveyor.”

Regardless of the facts, it was not surprising that the jury awarded the plaintiff a huge monetary award.

Litigation consulting is interesting, challenging, and profitable. If what is involved interests you, I recommend adding “Forensic Engineering” to your practice as a consulting engineer. The largest chapter in Jack’s new book: “The Complete Guide to Consulting Engineering” covers this topic in detail. http.//TheEngineersResource.com.