Forensic engineering is the application of engineering principles, knowledge,
skills, and methodologies to answer questions of fact that may have legal
ramifications. Forensic engineers typically are called upon to analyze car
accidents, building collapses, fires, explosions, industrial accidents, and various
calamities involving injuries or significant property losses. Fundamentally,
the job of a forensic engineer is to answer the question, what caused
this to happen?
A forensic engineer is not a specialist in any one science or engineering
discipline. The solution of “real-world” forensic engineering problems often
requires the simultaneous or sequential application of several scientific disciplines.
Information gleaned from the application of one discipline may
provide the basis for another to be applied, which in turn may provide the
basis for still another to be applied. The logical relationships developed
among these various lines of investigation usually form the basis for the
solution of what caused the event to occur. Because of this, skilled forensic
engineers are usually excellent engineering generalists.
A forensic engineering assignment is perhaps akin to solving a picture
puzzle. Initially, there are dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, of seemingly
disjointed pieces piled in a heap. When examined individually, each piece
may not provide much information. Methodically, the various pieces are
sorted and patiently fitted together in a logical context. Slowly, an overall
picture emerges. When a significant portion of the puzzle has been solved,
it then becomes easier to see where the remaining pieces fit.