The goal of a forensic investigation is to determine the cause of a failure. This
means establishing a chain of causation that led to the failure and reverse
engineering the steps that resulted in the accident. The findings can be used
to improve the performance and reliability of a component.
Forensic engineering tries to identify why and/or how damage to a material, component, design product assembly, subassembly, or other component failed. It involves using reverse engineering to find out why a part, assembly, or structure failed to perform properly.
The process of forensic engineering involves investigation into why structures, products or processes failed to function or operate as they were designed and engineered to do. As a result, these types of failures not only cause personnel injury and/or property damage, but may have also contributed to an economic loss.
Forensic engineers reverse engineer the processes and procedures in an effort to duplicate the defect, failure, or accident. In most cases, the goal is to suggest ways to prevent it from happening again.
While the field of engineering is primarily tasked with designing and manufacturing products that will be safe and withstand the normal use the product was designed for, failures may still occur. Even with extensive machine or product testing, the most meticulous designs can still fail during and after assembly, or in the manufacturing phase. In the event that a building collapses or a car part does not function as it is supposed to, a forensic engineer is responsible for determining the causes of failure and providing expert testimony on how to fix an existing structural problem.
The responsibilities of forensic engineers are often divided into two areas: investigation and engineering. Investigative skills are required soon after a material or manufactured product fails. In the event of material or product failure that results in serious injury, death, or failed experiment, forensic engineers work with design engineers to look for evidence to explain the cause of the failure.
Using engineering principles and practices, a forensic engineer analyzes the collected evidence and makes an official assessment of the causes of the material or product failure.
Forensic engineers may also be called into legal matters to testify as to why a material failed. In cases of product design failure, a forensic engineer works with design engineers and manufacturing leaders to assess the reasons the material or part failed, and provide guidelines to prevent failure from happening again.