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“Learn the process of investigation of an electrocution as an engineering expert”

By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING

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.

Acceptance of Cases

Accept only cases in your field of expertise, but don’t necessarily limit them to your area of specialty. My cases as an electrical engineer included electrocutions, fires of suspected electrical origin, standard of care determinations, equipment failures, arc fault accidents, conveyor accidents, lightning strikes, and others. Yours will be different but also interesting and challenging.


The following is a narrative synopses of one of my cases. This is not intended to be a formal presentation of legal actions. No confidential or privileged information is revealed. This is simply my recollection, intended only to illustrate an expert’s typical involvement in judicial matters.

I was the chief investigator and expert witness on all of the forensic cases of Gaskell Associates, Ltd., and later those of the Gaskell Associates division of Thielsch Engineering, until my retirement. However, it was my practice to meet on each case with my senior staff to “brainstorm” the case. This often opened up avenues of investigation that had not previously occurred to me. I attribute much of my success to hiring others who are smarter than I am.

Electrocution Case Study

An interesting electrocution case involved “Ozzie” the roofer. Part of my job was to read his “deposition,” his fact witness statement of what he observed. Ozzie was hired to put a new rubber roof on a tenement. Near the completion of the project, he was attaching the 10-foot metal edge strips. As he was nailing a strip to the edge, he saw another strip start to blow off the roof and reached out to grab it. In doing so, he extended it out into contact with a 25,000 volt distribution line. Current flowed through the metal edge strip, through Ozzie’s right hand, through his left hand that was still holding the other edge strip, down the aluminum siding on the building façade, and then damaged all the appliances in the first-floor pizza restaurant.

The attorney asked him how he felt. “I was a little tired, so I took the rest of the day off,” Ozzie told him. This electrocution cannot be explained; perhaps Ozzie has a guardian angel. Incidentally, Ozzie was not even a party to the lawsuit; the pizza guy was trying to collect for his appliances.

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.

Get Jack’s new book: The “Complete Guide” to FORENSIC ENGINEERING to learn the details. Also, the largest chapter in his book: The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING covers the “highlights” of Forensic Engineering. Visit to find out more.

Learn how to be a forensic engineer. Learn how to be a forensic expert witness. How to be an engineering expert witness. How to obtain training as a forensic engineer. How to obtain training as an engineering expert witness.