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Xpera Group Directory - Engineers

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Forensic Engineers And Consultants

Xpera Group connects you to some of the best forensic engineers and technical consultants of the west coast. As construction experts, they have been practicing in their fields for decades, bringing you the proven experience and expertise to help resolve any matters you have.

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What Is Forensic Engineering and How It Can Aid Your Case?

Forensic engineering is the use of engineering methodologies and principles to answer questions of fact that are generally associated with torts, accidents, property degradation, crimes, disastrous events, and various types of failures. This is done for the purpose of determining culpability and preventing similar losses in the future.

Because the methods it uses to reach its conclusions are strongly rooted in building science, forensic engineering plays a vital role in construction and real estate related claims in California and other states. Having forensic construction consultants, such as an engineering expert witness, on your side is an excellent way to reaching a solid understanding of the facts and communicating it effectively to reach a swift and favorable resolution to your case.

What does a forensic engineer do?

Forensic engineers combine the academic fields of science and engineering with the practical fields of construction / building sciences. Forensic engineers are licensed, designated as Professional Engineers (P.E. or equivalent) by one or more states, and most bring at least a decade worth of design and field experience. In addition to this, they have an in-depth knowledge of commercial and residential codes and standards.

These skills and knowledge enable forensic engineers to perform detailed analysis on civil and criminal legal matters and produce findings that can be used as legal evidence. In construction litigation matters, they can analyze which building components failed and factors that caused the failure. Also, they can also provide opinions on the standard-of-care of services that firms & individuals of the same profession had provided – that is, they analyze and determine whether their peers in the design profession were negligent in their contractual duties on the construction project.

In these and other cases, the forensic engineers become designated expert witnesses in the matters, and testify in mediations, arbitrations and trials.

The skills of speaking to an audience (sometimes a hostile audience) is one of the major differences that set a forensic engineer from those in a traditional engineering profession. In trial and arbitration settings, many of the top engineering expert witnesses can convey deep technical concepts into simple terms that are understandable to a lay person. Because of that, retaining the right engineering expert witness can prove invaluable to litigation matters that concern building failures and the resulting damages.

Engineering Fields

In regard to specific knowledge areas forensic engineer has and what tests and analysis they will do on as a designated expert, the answer will vary.

While all engineers possess a common foundation of education and skills when become professionally licensed, many specialize in one or more disciplines in construction or other industries. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is the organization administers both Fundamental Engineering (FE) the Practice Engineering (PE) exams for a wide list of engineering disciplines.

Professional licenses for a number of disciplines are regulated by the states, and some have modeled their designations to try to match the industry (they are called “discipline states”). For example, in California, the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs has listed the following engineering disciplines that fall under their P.E. regulations:

  • Civil Engineers
  • Structural Engineers
  • Geotechnical Engineers
  • Electrical Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers

There isn’t a “Forensic engineering” discipline, so any kind of engineer could become a forensic engineer of their chosen field. This makes sense because the point of a construction or engineering expert witness is to be a professional that draws upon their experience and skills gained working in their industry. For example, there can be a civil engineering expert who specializes in the industrial building sector, and their expertise would be different from a structural engineer expert who worked on bridges and overpasses in their career.

It is not uncommon for the forensic engineer to still practice traditional design, evaluation and consultation services. By doing so they continue to expand and broaden their experience, as well as stay current with the industry’s practices.

Forensic inspection methodology

When a legal matter involves failure analysis or needing to inspect a structure, the forensic engineer can conduct forensic inspections. Performing cause and origin determinations in a forensic setting is another specific skill that set engineering expert witnesses apart from a traditional design profession. The methodologies for forensic engineering inspections comes from lessons learned in building sciences and construction trades practices.

For forensic inspections, the engineering expert has to rely on education, training and experience to use the proper means and methods effectively to reach sound conclusions on factors causing the failure(s). Using not only the right methodologies but doing them consistently are critical in cases where the conclusions reached are challenged during the litigation process.

When performing forensic site inspections of a building, the expert will follow a process that can include:

  • Pre-inspection file preparation
  • Allocating resources and collecting information
  • Preparing inspection equipment
  • Taking photographs of the site upon arrival
  • Point of contact/property owner interview
  • Interior and exterior (nonroof) inspection
  • Roof inspection
  • Evidence collection

The detailed issues that the forensic engineer will look at will pertain to the expertise they possess and the scope of the expert designation. For example, a mechanical engineering expert would focus their site inspection to diagnose failures related to the HVAC and building automation systems, and not the foundation.

Who hires forensic engineers?

Forensic engineering companies and experts usually get their assignments from the legal community and the insurance industry representing their parties in a claim. Other clients (like building owners) would hire the companies for their traditional design services if offered – the rationale is that firms that offer both services are more likely to use best practices and lessons learned from their forensic assignments. Sometimes they would hire these professionals for forensic services, but it is rare.

Main reasons why the legal community may be motivated to make failure cause determinations include:

  • Determining root cause failures and responsible parties.
  • Quantifying the extent of damages
  • Quantifying needed repairs
  • Supplying expert witness services for litigation

The reasons insurance companies use forensic engineering professionals include:

  • Determining root cause failures and responsible parties
  • Quantifying the extent of damages
  • Determining if they have coverage of a submitted claim
  • Determining if other parties have coverage for a submitted claim

 

How to find the best engineering expert witness in California?

Having a solid understanding of the details regarding your case is a critical first step. As mentioned above, there is a wide variety of engineering experts, both in discipline and experience in the building industry sector (residential, commercial, industrial, public works, etc.).

Here at Xpera Group, we are proud of our status as the premier team of commercial and residential construction experts on the West Coast. Our group numbers more than fifty first-rate consultants whose vast knowledge and experience cover a broad array of engineering fields and specialty trades. We have extensive experience in solving all types of construction claims.

Among other services, we also offer unparalleled forensic engineering expert witness services. Our top forensic construction consultants in have worked in Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Phoenix, and other cities in the Western US, and have the tools and regional knowledge necessary to conduct high-end forensic site inspections.

Reach out to us via phone or email, or visit us at our headquarters near the 4S Ranch in San Diego, California. We will carefully examine your case and use our expertise to advise the most beneficial course of action for your particular situation.

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