“Undetermined”……Here is Your Bill!

Article by: Vincent Rochon, P.Eng and Co-CEO.

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Over the years, I have witnessed many forensic experts report the cause of a loss as “undetermined” when there was irrefutable evidence of one particular cause. Why then, did they choose to report an undetermined cause? There are several reasons, but the primary ones can be described by the following characteristics:

Expert 1: A lack of technical expertise. Some experts simply do not have the experience or technical background to fully understand complex losses. In this confused state they resign themselves to classifying the cause as “undetermined”.

Expert 2: A quick buck. If your expert’s investigation is cursory and not thorough, then a firmly concluded cause can never be properly documented. This expert can complete many investigations and undercut the competition’s pricing and timelines.

Expert 3: A fear of failure. Your expert is intimidated by court and does not want to defend their opinion. If your expert has no interest in going to court, then an undetermined cause will serve their purpose. This type of expert will often use other far-fetched and inconsequential theories to stay away from the courtroom.

I have worked with all three of these experts and it is a frustrating process. Granted, sometimes a case is “undetermined” and there is no amount of investigative work that can change that. However, if more cases are “undetermined” than not, there is an issue.

The problem is that these types of experts continually get work because they are usually inexpensive and benefit from the widely held untruth that it is impractical to spend money investigating a loss as “very few cases get to court”.

The larger issue is that these types of experts never resolve the underlying negligence that causes losses to occur. Ultimately this means that shoddy workmanship and dangerous products never get identified, the opportunity to subrogate is lost, and the bad guys stay in business.

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