How I was overwhelmed by the contents of a bundle, but then felt good!

I thought to bundle the blogs that have a forensic investigation theme, like I’ve done in bundling other themes. I used these key words in the search of my blog site. I forgot that my blog site was all about the nature and methods of this type of engineering work and that there would be many blogs with this theme. I stopped after I got a list of three dozen blogs with more that could be added! I just ground to a halt.

There was purpose to my madness but my good intentions went off the rails. I wanted to help a client get a feel for what’s involved in this specific area of forensic activity – forensic investigation. But spare them the blogs that pursue some of the nuances of forensic work, a total of 285 to date. Focus on the nuts and bolts while the client gets up to speed.

I came out of it with a good feeling though. I realized I’m doing what I set out to do 10 years ago – talk about forensic work as it says in the masthead above. A simple qualifying word or two might have reduced the three dozen size bundle – a little tweaking can go a long way.

It is interesting though, that an investigative process like forensic work has so many little asides resulting in 285 blogs so far. Realizing this might have scared me away 10 years ago from trying to write about it.

I’m glad I didn’t because I’ve learned a lot about how to explain the work I do – while soldiering through the overwhelming parts. My work, and others like me, help readers know about the engineering techniques available for resolving the disputes that land on their desks.


(For example, I believe that simple terrain analysis by a surficial geologist could have reduced the risk of losing those five lives on the highway in British Columbia that was in the news again recently.

Surficial geologists map the different types of soils in an area as deposited by the glaciers many 1,000s of years ago. Terrain analysis identifies features in the terrain relevant to a problem that’s being investigated. Geotechnical engineers measure the physical properties of the soils in the different features.

The risk of landslides along a stretch of highway would be the outcome of this simple process. Signs would then be posted alerting drivers to the risk. It’s not rocket science.

See an informative blog I posted last year that was prompted by the loss of life on the BC highway: Mudslide Zone! November 21, 2021)


(Posted by Eric E. Jorden, M.Sc., P.Eng. Consulting Professional Engineer, Forensic Engineer, Geotechnology Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. October 28, 2022   

Surprised by the tasks and shocked by the cost – the facts of life in forensic work

To echo David Stockwood in Civil Litigation, a Practical Handbook: most clients are unfamiliar with the tasks involved in an investigation of the cause of a failure or accident in the built environment. They are also unfamiliar, and shocked, by the cost. (Ref. 1, 2) Nor are they aware that the forensic engineering work may not find a cause that is in their interest.

This is echoed further by Ron Pizzo, Pink Larkin Law: a forensic engineer just doesn’t know the cause of a problem when asked – a lot of engineering investigation is necessary beforehand. (Ref. 3)

And finally, as required by common law, experts provide objective, unbiased opinion evidence in relation only to matters within their expertise. (Ref. 1)

Some investigations quickly arrive at the cause of a problem – some after the forensic engineer does little more than visually examine the scene of an accident or failure. But not all. The spoiler is the need for the forensic engineer to follow-the- evidence.


These facts came to mind recently when I sensed that a client thought my engineering investigation would support his view that he had an earthworks problem. And another, that I would just issue an engineering report as needed, without much work on my part. This problem has often been experienced by a colleague in a related civil engineering field. (Ref. 4)

To echo Stockwood again, it’s necessary to explain the “facts of life” about forensic work at an early stage. And, of course, using a delicate touch so the injured party does not become discouraged from learning what caused his injury or failure. (Ref. 1)

I know what he’s talking about like I’m sure many of you. Those of us in forensic engineering and readers in dispute resolution and claim settlement must be understanding and clear in explaining the facts of life.


  1. Stockwood, Q.C., David, Civil Litigation, a Practical Handbook, 5th ed., Thomson Carswell, 2004
  2. Principles governing the cost control of dispute resolution and claim settlement involving experts. Posted July 30, 2019 and updated September 24, 2020 and March 18, 2021
  3. Pizzo, Ron, Pink Larkin Law, “…lot of preparation beforehand – a lawyer just doesn’t walk into court” as stated during the Atlantic Provinces Trial Lawyers Association conference, Halifax 2016, It’s All Wrongful: Death, Dismissal, Conviction & More.
  4. Conversation with Jamie Yates, P.Eng, consulting professional engineer, Fall River, Nova Scotia 2022

(Posted by Eric E. Jorden, M.Sc., P.Eng. Consulting Professional Engineer, Forensic Engineer, Geotechnology Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. October 20, 2022   

Why did I drop the ball?

I’ve been posting blogs on the nature and methods of forensic work and expert services for 10 years. The blogs – two or three a month – go to people who might need to know how the cause of an accident or failure in the built environment is determined. People like:

  • Claims managers
  • Adjusters
  • Lawyers
  • Engineers
  • Architects, and,
  • A few others in related fields

I have not been posting to the actual person who might be injured in an accident, like a slip and fall, or whose property might be damaged. Yet these are the people who bear the financial burden and need to know something about forensic work. What forensic workers do and why.


The penny dropped recently when a property owner telephoned about an earthworks problem he saw in his area. I had been recommended by another engineer, and the owner had also visited my web and blog sites. “Impressive”, he said. Nice to hear.

I tell you these things so you can know the good footing we started off on – before things started to unravel. When you’re up, the only way is down. (Ref. 1)


He told me about his problem on the telephone and then we arranged to meet at his property. He was concerned about earthworks on his neighbour’s property affecting the structures and ground on his. His property was level then dropped off to his neighbour’s.

I quickly saw during my visual assessment that I had to do standard things like:

  • Research published mapping of the area,
  • Locate his property line,
  • Get some low level aerial photography from a drone, and,
  • Dig some test pits.

We also looked at some Google earth aerial photography that the property owner got up on his laptop that was the same as I got shortly after he telephoned me.

All of the above tasks went through my mind – in a heart beat – as we walked over his property because they are standard tasks in a forensic investigation. He wasn’t likely to need much more investigation than this to assess the earthworks problem as he perceived it.

The data from these tasks would define the location and depth of the earthworks with respect to his property line. I would also get the slope of the property. Most of this data would be numerical – in numbers like engineers like. The earthworks’ problem would be quantified.


After I did the heart-beat assessment I asked questions about one large structure on his property located back from the location of the earthworks. It was far enough away that it was unlikely to be a factor in the earthworks problem. But it was there and it was big and it was in order to take some interest.

Time passed and with my initial assessment completed I left. I noted that I would research published mapping, book drone photography and get back to him.


I got back to him after the weekend and met him at his property, only to be told he didn’t need my services, that he was “going another way”. It turns out that my questions about the large structure on his property seemed at the expense of greater interest in his earthworks problem.

He does need a thorough and objective forensic investigation to define the nature and scope of the earthworks problem on his property as he perceives it. I saw what needed to be done as soon as I walked across his property, but he didn’t because I didn’t say.

If I made a mistake in this situation, it was neglecting to describe in detail the investigation needed to define his problem and the cause of it. Then, and only then, take interest in the big structure on his property.

Forensic investigation was new to him – he would have more knowledge of his annual medical checkup courtesy of Dr. Google. I dropped the ball in not realizing this.


I must look into posting my blogs to the general populace, the people who bear the financial burden and need to know what they get for their money.

Add them to the above list. Help them to know about the nature and methods of forensic work. Also, how quickly an experienced forensic engineer can sometimes know what needs to be done to investigate a personal injury or a structural failure.


  1. I learned long ago from an engineering friend, John L’Aventure, that when you’re down, the only way is up. John knew. He got into fish farming after practicing engineering for a few years. At one point one of his four fish cages was breached by seals and he lost 1,000s of salmon. It took him five years to get back on his feet.

(Posted by Eric E. Jorden, M.Sc., P.Eng. Consulting Professional Engineer, Forensic Engineer, Geotechnology Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. October 11, 2022