I have noticed a trend emerging in the field of Fire and Explosion Investigations. Small and intermediate investigations get the “cheap and dirty” treatment (see my last article, “Canadian Forensic Engineering in a Downward Spiral”). A non-technical, unqualified forensic investigator is hired in the majority of these cases and it is highly likely that it will be identified as an “undetermined” fire/explosion. Everyone walks away happy…the client gets a cheap investigation that he/she can slide into the file, the investigator doesn’t have to worry about being challenged or preparing for trial and poor workmanship and unsafe product design get a “pass”. Qualified experts will normally be retained for large losses, but sometimes they get involved in small/intermediate losses and suddenly the investigation becomes technical and complex. When this happens, the trend is to get an American Expert. I am currently involved in several large loss, technically complex fire and explosion investigations and the majority of experts retained by the opposing side are from the U.S. So why hire an expert that has been exposed to different codes, standards, statues and case law? Part of the reason is that practicing Canadian forensic engineers do not have the proper training required to make them “selectable candidates” for analyzing complex matters (i.e., Do they have a track record of defending their opinions and having their opinions accepted at court?). Another reason is that Canadian Forensics has defaulted to the lowest common denominator in an effort to appease their client instead of completing a thorough and comprehensive analysis. Canadian Forensic Engineers need to set higher quality standards so that we can compete with our US counterparts. Roar Engineering provides the coaching and mentoring required to develop junior and intermediate engineering experts into seasoned and senior technical experts. We avoid the “cheap and dirty” investigations and put negligent workers and manufacturers on notice that we will determine the cause and stand by our opinions. We are working tirelessly to improve the current state of Canadian Forensic Engineering. So you want to start recovering millions of dollars from subrogated losses? What can you do to ensure that you are hiring the right expert? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Don’t hire the cheapest non-technical expert you can find.
2. Don’t hire experts that have the potential to be conflicted (i.e., Is the expert’s parent company an adjusting firm or an insurance company?). Even when the parent company is adjusting the opposing side’s claim, you should avoid hiring their expert (Who will the expert side with? Your side or the parent company’s side; remembering they feed them all their files. See Victoria Rochon’s article, “Roar Engineering: Independently Owned-What does this mean to you?”)
3. Check the track record of the expert you want to hire. Does he/she have a record of having his/her opinions accepted at trial?
If all else fails, hire an American Expert!