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   

Comments are closed.