What is forensic engineering? Definition and examples

Forensic engineering is the application of engineering knowledge to determine why a structure or machine failed. It also tries to determine why there was damage to a structure or machine. Forensic engineering involves using reverse engineering to find out why a component, structure, or machine failed to perform properly.

In other words, forensic engineering is all about trying to find out what went wrong.

Forensic experts may then use their findings as evidence in court. Specifically, they use their evidence in court if the failure caused human injury or damage to property.

They also use the evidence in court if their findings have anything to do with a criminal case.

Put simply; forensic engineering is the investigation of failures. They range from minor to catastrophic failures. Some of them may also lead to court action.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has the following description of the term:

“Forensic engineering is the application of engineering principles to the investigation of failures or other performance problems.”

“Forensic engineering also involves testimony on the findings of these investigations before a court of law or other judicial forum, when required.”

The word ‘forensic‘ refers to the application of technical or scientific knowledge to solving problems. Specifically, finding out why something went wrong or how a criminal activity proceeded.


Forensic Engineering
When something goes wrong with a structure or machine, we call the forensic engineering experts, i.e., the forensic engineers.

What does forensic engineering include?

Forensic engineering includes the investigation of structures, components, products, or materials that have failed.

For some reason, they did not function or operate as they should have and caused human injury or property damage. Their defect or failure may also have caused economic loss.

Regarding the failure of these materials, components, structures, or products, Wikipedia writes:

” The consequences of failure may give rise to action under either criminal or civil law including but not limited to health and safety legislation, the laws of contract and/or product liability and the laws of tort.”

Forensic engineers retrace the processes and procedures that led to the defect, failure, accident, or catastrophe. We call this procedure ‘reverse engineering.’

Generally, forensic engineering is all about finding out why something went wrong. In most cases, the aim is also to suggest ways to prevent it from happening again.


Becoming a forensic engineer

A long process

Becoming a forensic engineer is a long and difficult process, says Polymer Solutions Inc. However, ultimately, it is an extremely rewarding one. Polymer Solutions is a materials testing laboratory and strategic resource for the testing of gases, polymers, plastic, and other materials.

In the United States, for example, you must first get an engineering degree and then earn your engineering license.

A difficult exam

In the US, the states award licenses. To get a license, you must pass the Principles and Practices of Engineering exam.

You then must gain lots of experience so that you eventually become certified as a professional engineer.

Little room for mistakes

It has to be a long and arduous process because forensic engineers have virtually no room for mistakes.

Forensic Science Careers advises people to major in a relevant sub-field of engineering.

While earning your degree, you could major in civil engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, or chemical engineering.

During coursework, you need to learn how to determine what events led up to a design or structural failure. Therefore, you must be familiar with different types of structures, components, products, and materials.


Different types of forensics

There are many types of forensic subdivisions including accounting, art, digital, and botany forensics. There is also forensic astronomy, forensic anthropology, and forensic archaeology.

Forensic accountants are the detectives of the financial world. Forensic pathologists, on the other hand, are the detectives of the medical world.

All the different forensics come under the umbrella term ‘forensic science.’


Video – Forensic Engineering

In this video, Jim Drebelbis talks about forensic engineering and how he became a forensic engineer.