THE NEED FOR INSIGHTFUL TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE IN SIU PROPERTY CLAIMS INVESTIGATIONS
Traditionally, the engineers role in insurance claims has been to provide an objective assessment as to cause, origin, resultant costs, etc., with respect to the particular claim. Unfortunately, some engineering firms offering such services to the industry have, in the past, possibly offered less than objective opinions. Human nature being what it is, this is certainly understandable, but not acceptable. This is why, at Walters Forensic Engineering, we usually have our final reports reviewed by a second engineer. We strongly believe that this ensures that a strong degree of objectivity is present in our assessments. The fact that we are regularly retained by both plaintiff and defense counsel also speaks to our ability to provide objective reporting.
Occasionally, an insurance claim will, normally due to a number of odd or strange factors in the case, "raise a red flag" and get turned over to an insurance special investigations unit (SIU). If an engineer is retained to assist in such matters, he or she must be especially vigilant in keeping a strong hold of their objectivity - the involvement of an SIU could be seen to imply guilt on the part of the insured, which could easily divert the engineers attention from the facts in the case. This is certainly not what the insurer wants: if the facts are not presented as such, and are not supported by sound engineering principles and/or experience, ultimately everybody loses.
In addition to objectivity, ingenuity and creativity are desirable qualities in an investigating engineer, especially on SIU type claims. By this we do not mean that the engineer should create facts, but rather that they must be ingenious and creative in determining how to pursue their investigation. Engineering as a profession can be systematic and "traditional" at times, as most of the underlying principles have been around for decades or even centuries. An engineer that pursues an investigation without utilizing creative tools or techniques may not be uncovering all of the facts in the case. What is required is an insightful technical investigation.
An effective and creative use of technology that most people are likely familiar with is scientific animation in accident reconstruction. While this may not necessarily uncover additional facts about the case, it certainly provides a presentation of the facts which may be more broadly understood (i.e.-not just by engineers), and may provide the insight required to resolve the matter.
Another example of an insightful technical investigation pertained to an alleged break and enter case at a retail establishment. We were asked to assess whether of not it was possible to gain access to the premises in the manner in which it was reported; by crawling through the roof top air conditioning unit and along the concealed ceiling space. We readily confirmed that access could be gained through the air conditioning unit. We also determined, based on patterns left in the dust on the sheetmetal ductwork, that an individual had crawled along the ductwork between the back of the store and the entry point. However, due to certain peculiarities between reported information and/or other physical evidence found, it was important to determine which direction the individual had traveled.
Crawl patterns are not something readily referenced in engineering or other scientific journals, thus we undertook testing which produced crawl patterns which could be compared to the marks found at the site. Based on the results of this testing, we were able to come to a conclusion with a good degree of certainty. This conclusion supported other physical evidence found by the SIU, and the claim was ultimately paid.
So, as in all of the other aspects of forensic engineering which we undertake for our clients, our ability to provide insightful technical investigations may be of assistance to you in your SIU investigations too. Dont hesitate to call us for a free initial review of your case.
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Walters Forensic Engineering | 277 Wellington
Street West, Suite 800 | Toronto, ON M5V 3H2