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Forensic Electrical Engineering

Forensic Electrical Engineering Forensic electrical engineering is a branch of forensic engineering, and is concerned with investigating electrical failures and accidents in a legal context. Many of our forensic electrical engineering investigations apply to fires suspected to be caused by electrical failures. As forensic electrical engineers, we are most commonly retained by insurance companies or attorneys representing insurance companies, or by manufacturers or contractors defending themselves against insurance companies.

A Forensic Engineer is responsible for technically sound and unimpeachable answers to three basic questions:
  • What happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How could it have been prevented?

Some investigation examples include:

Defective appliances: If a property fire was caused by an appliance which had a manufacturing or design defect (for example, a coffee maker overheating and igniting), making it unreasonably hazardous, the insurance company might attempt to collect the cost of the fire damage ("subrogate") from the manufacturer; if the fire caused personal injury or death, the injured party might also attempt an injury lawsuit against the manufacturer, in addition to the carrier of health or life insurance attempting subrogation.

Improper workmanship: If, for example, an electrician made an improper installation in a house, leading to an electrical fault and fire, he or she could likewise be the target of subrogation or an injury lawsuit (for this reason, electricians are required to carry liability insurance).

Electrical injury: If an electrical fault or unreasonably hazardous electrical system causes an electrical injury ("electrocution" if the injury is fatal), the party responsible for the electrical accident can be the target of insurance subrogation or an injury lawsuit.

Equipment failure: if electrical equipment stops functioning, it can cause a loss of income (such as a factory losing productivity due to inoperative equipment) or additional damage (such as food products spoiling due to loss of refrigeration), and again be the subject of a subrogation or liability case. Liability in such a case can also include the cost of repairing or replacing the equipment, which can be substantial.

Our Forensic Electrical Engineering Studies Include:
  • Arc flash incident energy, degree of burn  damage , PPE
  • Electrical code violations
  • Electrical shock – calculation of current through human body, and degree of personal trauma
  • Inadvertent contact with power lines
  • OSHA and  OHSA   violations
  • Investigation of origin and cause of electrical fires caused by a variety of equipment
  • Origin and cause of natural gas /propane appliances fires
  • Origin and cause of plastics manufacturing fires
  • Fires caused by information technology equipment and UPS
  • Post-fire fire alarm system verification
  • Investigation of failures in large electrical equipment (which did not cause fire in building)
  • Failure investigation of motors, pumps and valves in air conditioning system