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Forensic Engineering | Definition, Types, and ApplicationsMay 15, 2022 - BY SIFS India

Forensic Engineering | Definition, Types, and Applications

The analysis of property loss and injuries caused by failures in materials, components, design, and construction is known as forensic engineering.

If there was property damage, economic loss, personal injury, or death, forensic evidence, coupled with the investigator's testimony, could be offered in a court of law, arbitration, or another forum.

In the prosecution and defence of civil and criminal claims, investigations are critical for legal decision-making.

When is it Necessary to Use Forensic Engineering? 

The objective of a scientific examination is to decide the cause of a disappointment.

This entails identifying the actions that lead to the failure and establishing a chain of causation that led to the accident. This data can be utilised to improve a component's performance and dependability.

Regularly, the comes about of a scientific examination is displayed sometime recently in the courts.

Failures can result in liability because of the property damage, personal harm, or death that occurs as a result of them. As a result, forensic evidence is employed in the claim, prosecution, and defence of challenged contracts, health and safety, product liability, and tort claims.

Who Needs Forensic Engineering?

  • Manufacturers of building materials.
  • Contractors and builders.
  • Companies that provide insurance.
  • Underwriters.
  • Financial institutions and banks.
  • Auditors.
  • Attorneys and law firms.
  • Investigators from the government.
  • Consultants for projects.

Forensic Engineering Applications

One of the foremost common applications of forensic designing is in interpreting item obligation. Claimants (offended parties) and respondents both rely on an expert declaration to set up a chain of occasions and allocate fault. A few distinctive cases of forensic engineers being called to explore a mishap are:

  • A concert organizes collapsing and pulverizing an individual underneath.

  • An electric pot encounters an electrical disappointment and causing burns to the owner.

  • A bridge collapsing beneath the weight of snow and ice in spite of being considered to secure.

How Forensic Inquiry Aids in the Resolution of Conflicts and Makes the World Safer Place?

In civil and criminal prosecutions, insurance claims, contractual disputes, and other situations, a forensic inquiry has played a role. Here are a few examples of how forensic engineering aids in the resolution of conflicts and makes the world a safer place:

  • Expert testimony that clarifies technical concerns for the court.

  • Reduce the number of failures in all kinds of applications.

  • Determine the best techniques for reducing the number of failures.

  • Share technical failure facts and expand your knowledge base.

  • Guidelines for conducting failure investigations should be developed/improved.

Various Types of Forensic Accident Investigation 

Loss investigations and forensic investigations are rarely the same. Every case is different, and forensic engineers must be aware of the inherent "assumption bias" that might sabotage an investigation.

  • Investigations into fires and explosions.
  • Forensic structural engineering.
  • Consultants in forensic architecture.
  • Engineering of materials.
  • Mechanical engineering is the study of machines.
  • Analyses from drones.
  • Detection of Accelerants.
  • Data recovery from a crash.
  • Services for forensic litigation.
  • Incidents of various types.
  • Liability claims against contractors.
  • Claims for product responsibility.
  • Arsons.
  • Fraud.
  • Claims for bodily harm.
  • Failures of heavy machinery.

What types of Occurrences are Investigated by Forensic Engineering?

The types of incidents that forensic engineers evaluate are not exhaustive. To analyze the complex causes of incidents, a forensics team may collaborate with commercial and industrial clients, government authorities, and health and safety bodies.

  • Injury to the body and biomechanics.
  • Building codes and fires.
  • Civil and structural failures.
  • Collision reconstruction.
  • Investigations of natural disasters.
  • Fires and electrical failures.
  • Investigations into geotechnical issues.
  • Failures of products.
  • Failures of materials.
  • Accidents in transportation and trucking.

What is the Role of Forensic Engineer? 

Evidence gathering, failure analysis, simulation, accelerated life testing, and statistical analysis is all part of the forensic engineering process. Forensic engineers must be well-versed in their particular discipline of engineering. The engineer's job can be broken down into three steps, as shown below: acquiring evidence, investigation analysis, and client reporting.

Accumulating Evidence

  • Investigating the incident's history
  • The on-site organization ensures that the scene is preserved properly.
  • Hazard identification and assessment
  • directing the collecting of evidence

Analyze the Investigation

  • Initial assessment of the incident
  • Understand the client's terms of reference and devise an investigation plan. Form an investigation team.
  • Based on the terms of reference, determine the scope of the investigation.
  • Maintain objectivity by avoiding bias.

Accountability to the Client

  • Failure's nature and causes
  • Expert witness in a courtroom or other setting

Case Study 


The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle became the world's premier air superiority fighter when it entered service in 1976. The F-15 will have served in the military for around 50 years when production ends in 2022. But it's a miracle it's survived this long.

After a Missouri Air National Guard fighter crashed during a training operation in 2007, everything almost went wrong for the F-15. That was the year's fourth F-15 crash.

What's going on?

While forensic engineers investigated the problem, all F-15 flights were grounded worldwide.

According to a technical examination of the debris, a longeron—a load-bearing beam of the fuselage frame, chassis, and cockpit—was a few millimeters off from the blueprint dimensions.

Some of the longerons were overly thin or had rough surfaces, causing excessive pressure. This caused fissures in the longeron, which eventually caused it to fail totally.


This level of forensic examination would be difficult without accurate measurement. Not all structural flaws can be seen with the naked eye.

The team performed a surface scan, which involves passing electricity via a coil. The current is interrupted by a fissure in the structure, signaling engineers to "examine here."

To confirm the crack, they apply a dye to the spot and examine it under ultraviolet light.

An Immediate Action Time Compliance Technical Order was issued after engineers determined the cause of the accident. The longerons on all 700 of America's F-15s were thoroughly inspected by maintenance staff.

Approximately 40% of our F-15s had at least one longeron that was out of specification. Nine of them had developed cracks that would have caused mechanical failure if they hadn't been repaired.

It didn't make sense to conduct major repairs on a fighter nearing the end of its service life because each longeron costs more than $250,000 to replace.

Over 160 planes were forced to remain on the ground indefinitely.

Under the strain of a 7G rotation, a longeron that wasn't up to design requirements to begin with and had been in operation for more than 25 years cracked. The cockpit split from the rest of the fuselage as a result of a series of failures in other longerons.

The pilot, Major Stephen Stilwell, was able to eject, although the canopy damaged him as he did so. He has a 10-inch metal plate in his arm and shoulder and suffers from severe discomfort.

He filed a lawsuit against Boeing, alleging that the company was aware of the potential of structural failure but neglected to notify the Air Force.

While navigating the maze of legal concerns in a lawsuit involving the government, Boeing, and a fleet of planes from a previous age is difficult, at least we now know what happened.

As newer planes are phased in, the parties involved can litigate it out. The careful work on this forensic engineering case possibly saved the lives of American pilots by preventing further crashes.


Curiosity is a trait shared by all forensic engineers. Regardless of discipline, all forensic engineers must like solving issues.

There must be a desire to learn how things work and what caused the situation to happen. A qualified mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, environmental, or materials engineer is often a forensic engineer.

Most have specialized in chemical or structural sectors, as well as industries like oil and gas or consumer appliances.

Working in the field or completing advanced degrees can both lead to this. Of course, experience is a forensic engineer's most valuable asset.

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