Questions to Ask When Retaining a Forensic Engineer
Loss-handling professionals sometimes need a forensic engineer to provide answers to technical questions. Actionable information is required. Knowing what to look for in a forensic engineer is one key to a successful engagement. When in the process of engaging a forensic engineer, consider the following:
“Will this engineer tell me the hard (or just the easy) truth?”
“Can I count on what they tell me, or will there be an awkward moment of new understanding later on?”
A forensic engineer must examine the loss without the engineer’s investigation being distorted by personal feelings or prejudices. The engineer should advocate for the truth, without consideration for who has hired the engineer. Objectivity tends to enable a thorough investigation based on facts.
Relevant Experience –
“Do they have experience that would give them the required knowledge?”
When an engineer is engaged in the investigation of a loss, the details surrounding the loss sometimes require knowledge and experience in niche or esoteric fields, industries, or processes. In other instances, what is needed is engineering knowledge of a more general nature and the ability to apply the knowledge in a particular situation. Discuss what is involved in the loss and see if their background is a good fit.
“Did the engineer engage me in a conversation that allowed me to explain what I know about the loss and demonstrated that they understood my needs?”
“Was the engineer understandable or did they rely on an excess of jargon and technical terms?”
“Do I have an understanding of what will be involved in the investigation with respect to timing, cost, and actions?”
Good communication is needed to realize the benefits of an objective, thorough investigation. Also, prior to conducting an investigation, the engineer should have an understanding of the client’s needs. To be effective, a forensic engineer will need to communicate his or her observations, findings, and opinions in a clear and concise manner.
“Does the engineer have an accredited engineering education?”
“Has this engineer obtained certifications or specialized training beyond their college education?”
As evidence of general knowledge, a Professional Engineer (PE) must have met certain requirements to obtain licensure. These requirements include an accredited engineering degree, several years of experience in an engineering capacity, and a passing score on two separate tests of engineering knowledge. Therefore, a PE has demonstrated a solid background and experience in engineering. A licensed PE will apply education and experience to a wide array of fields and industries to assist in forensic investigations. Further, should a loss end up in litigation, many jurisdictions require professional registration in order to serve as an expert witness.
“Did they respond to my initial inquiry in a timely manner?”
“Did they take time to understand the time-frame of the needed response and were they clear on how soon they could respond to my needs?”
When a loss takes place, often time is of the essence. The individual or entity who has sustained the loss is looking for resolution, but first the loss needs to be understood. Investigations may go in a quick fashion or may be delayed by factors outside of the control of the forensic engineer. Still, timely action on the things that are within the control of the engineer will help provide a timely response.
“Are there any questions regarding the ethics of the engineer?”
Not much to add here. Without ethical behavior the rest is of limited value.
The characteristics of a quality forensic and consulting engineer discussed above are by no means complete or exhaustive; however, this list provides a glimpse into some of the characteristics that define a “good” forensic engineer.