Forensic experts use their technical knowledge to investigate failures or performance problems in various types of structures, which may involve providing testimony on the findings of these investigations in a legal forum. When failures occur or defects are alleged in the built environment, forensic experts (commonly engineers and architects) often must determine the causes of these failures and review the related design and construction work. In some cases, experts may be asked to assign or apportion responsibility for a failure or defect to one or more parties.

In cases involving alleged design defects, forensic experts are frequently asked to determine if the work performed by the design professional met the “standard of care” for their profession. In this context, the “standard of care” is generally the level of skill and care that a reasonably careful and reputable design professional would have used in similar circumstances.

In a legal forum, the standard of care may be used to determine if a design professional has committed one or more errors, and if these potential errors have risen to the legal definition of negligence. Because the work performed by design professionals requires specific knowledge, training, experience, and licensure; and because the circumstances under which the work was performed can differ from project to project, experts are required to determine the standard and if it was met on a case by case basis.

The existence of a failure does not necessarily mean that a design professional has violated the standard of care. To properly evaluate the work of a design professional, a forensic investigator must provide an ethical, unbiased determination of whether or not the design professional met the standard of care.

Nelson’s forensic architects and engineers specialize in analyzing defects in the design and construction of structures of all shapes, sizes, and uses. They are experts at examining possible construction defects by builders and/or design defects by designers in their conformance to standards of care in the industry. They evaluate the applicability of building codes, zoning regulations, and accessibility requirements; and assess material performance and specifications, building envelope systems, and damage resulting from natural perils.