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“Learn the step-by-step process of doing a lightning injury investigation as an engineering expert”

By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

Author of “The Complete Guide to FORENSIC ENGINEERING

Lightning Injury Investigation

Learn the step-by-step process of doing a lightning injury investigation as an engineering expert. 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.

Lightning Injury Investigation

My first “forensic” case involved injury by lightning. It was so long ago that I don’t remember if the event was fatal or not. An employee at a factory was told that it was raining and her car windows were open. She borrowed an umbrella and walked to her car. At some point, she was struck by lightning. I wasn’t called in until more than a year later, when the case was about to go to court. My job was to visit the site and measure distances from the point of the incident to structures (fence, poles, and buildings) and associated heights. I examined what was left of the umbrella, reviewed the weather report for the day, and studied lightning theory. Eventually, I testified as an expert witness for the plaintiff at trial regarding what occurred. I didn’t know enough to charge more than my usual hourly rate, but I was impressed that I could get paid to study an interesting topic like lightning.

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.