The justice system and messy construction sites – Seeing is believing

There’s an argument for the justice system to go on site and see what it’s really like for the expert.  See what he’s got to deal with, and describe and explain to them later.  That means judges, juries, and counsel for all parties, also insurance claims managers.  It’s messy out there and not at all clean, tidy and precise as might be gathered from the text books.

I’ve seen the justice system on site less than half a dozen times in the years I’ve been investigating engineering failures and accidents.

I thought of this recently when I was examining and measuring conditions on a construction site.  I was knee deep in messy, wet pits in the ground and cramped in tiny, grubby crawl spaces.  And it was raining off and on too.  I was happy though, I was collecting valuable data.

But how to tell the justice system later that conditions were different from what I expected and more difficult and expensive to quantify?  In this case, less accurate for one element of the problem but more informative for a second.

How to describe this in words?  I got pictures and this will help.  But, seeing is believing.  It’s easier if the justice system has seen the conditions.  It’s easier then for the expert to explain the technical issues arising from the conditions associated with the failure or accident.  Most of our knowledge is acquired visually – about 80 to 85 percent, so come out and see and understand better what the expert is saying.


  1. An expert’s “dirty hands and muddy boots”.  Posted December 20, 2013
  2. The messiness of some forensic engineering and insurance investigations is illustrated by messy snow banks.   Posted April 14, 2015
  3. More about messy, lumpy Mother Nature and how we deal with her effect on our forensic engineering and insurance investigations.  Posted April 23, 2015




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