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Best Practices to Prepare a Forensic Engineering Expert Report

Forensic engineering projects often lead to litigation as parties try to avoid being liable for damages when confronted with technical allegations. An engineering expert witness may prepare a forensic engineering expert report after he or she completes an investigation. This report may be shared with interested parties after its completion.

Purpose of a Forensic Engineering Report

The main purpose of a forensic engineering report is to provide defensible conclusions that address technical concerns. The report should be made in clear language so that the interested parties who review it are not confused as to the findings or the basis of these findings. Interested parties may include other technical experts, non-technical parties or jury members, in some cases. If presented in a trial, the report may be analyzed by the plaintiff, defendant and jury. Therefore, the report must be thorough and provide clear information that parties can review after the expert witness testifies.

Support for Findings

There are strict rules of evidence that deal with expert witness testimony and reports. The person presenting the report must base findings off of valid sources of information, accepted
references and permissible logic. The report should indicate when personal observation is used and when information from a third party has been relied upon.

Under federal law, an expert witness is one who is such due to his or her knowledge, skill, training, experience or education and this knowledge or training is relied upon to help the trier of fact understand the evidence or determine facts in question. Additionally, the expert’s testimony must be based on sufficient facts or data and rely upon accepted principles and methods.
If the expert makes statements in the report, they should be supported by acceptable sources and directly referenced in the materials. The American National Standards set out when certain sources and processes are considered acceptable. These standards typically include a group or consensus body that reach a consensus regarding the proposed standard. Additionally, draft standards are open for public review and comment. Voting members of the consensus body have an opportunity to consider and review the standard based on these reviews. Any approved changes are incorporated into a draft standard.

Additionally, any participant who believes that due process principles were not properly respected have the right to appeal.
There may also be industry standards based on design, manufacture, inspection and installation. If statements are attributed to a third party, this should be clearly indicated in the report. The report should indicate the source, date and location of the reference. If the report includes comments made during the investigation, the report should indicate which person made the statement and his or her relationship to the organization.

Any tests that were completed during the process should be clearly explained, along with how the test determines findings and whether there is any standard deviation for the test. The report may contain footnotes and bibliographies to properly accredit statements and opinions.

Organizing the Report

An effective forensic engineering report should be well organized. The report should begin with a cover page and title page. Additionally, it should include a table of contents so that the information is clearly broken up into different sections. The introductory information comes first and provides a background on the case and why the report is being prepared. Then, there should be a description of the issues. The scope of the work is explained along with the approach that will be utilized. There is also a section that explains the information that is used in the process. This may include mention of site visits, description of the site or building, observations that were made during the process and a list of witnesses that are interviewed. The results of the investigation are then thoroughly set out. This section should include the analysis and specific test results. Conclusions should be incorporated toward the end of the report.

The report may contain additional resources and references, including lists, photographs, source documents, backup materials and other materials. Some reports may contain the opinion of additional experts in addition to the expert making the report. These documents and exhibits should be described in the report. The report may also include information about how the report is expected to be used.

Help from a Forensic Engineering Expert

A forensic engineering expert can provide a comprehensive report that parties use to understand the case. He or she can independently evaluate and analyze information and evidence to prepare a comprehensive report.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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