Engineering Report Provenance
Imagine if you will…you, the insurance or legal professional, need the expertise of a licensed professional engineer (PE) to help you with your claim or suit. You call one of the many national forensic engineering companies available to you. The field PE assigned the project completes the onsite inspection. You eventually receive the Engineering Report and invoice. Given the recent national attention regarding changed Hurricane Sandy Engineering Reports aired on “60 Minutes” in March 2015, are you sure the opinions in your report are those of the field PE you hired? Or, has your report been sent up the chain of command where it could have been changed by an Administrative Functionary and then sent to you? The Answer is…it depends. Was the field PE you hired the one who sent you the report? The “60 Minutes” report suggests that there is a disturbing trend.
In the beginning (circa 1985 when I started), it was understood, it was the practice, that the PE who was hired by the client, the PE who performed the onsite inspection, the PE who called the client to discuss the findings, was the PE who wrote the Engineering Report and sent it directly to the client. The past 20 or so years has seen the creation of many national forensic engineering firms. I personally know of five national forensic engineering firms who have their field PE’s submit their Engineering Reports to the Administrative Functionaries of the company where they are eventually sent to the client. Two of those five firms have been caught changing the opinions in the field PE’s Engineering Report. Two out of five is not a good statistic.
The Big “If’s”…
If…PE’s are required by law and oath to protect life and property…
If…PE’s are bound by the ethical rules regarding truthfulness by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)…
If…true Forensic PE’s are knowledgeable of the NSPE ethics and those of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE),…how can the opinions in Engineering Reports get changed?
The Answer (In My Humble Opinion – IMHO): A few Administrative Functionaries (AF) at a small number of national forensic engineering firms are arrogant enough to believe that they should have control over the content of a field PE’s work product.
What is an Administrative Functionary? They are in management above the field engineer. Many are licensed engineers who should know better. Many are technicians who worked for PE’s but are now in management or marketing to sell engineering services. In any event, IMHO, many AF’s are ignorant of or ignore the fact that the field PE writing the Engineering Report is bound by professional engineering laws, ethics, codes and standards. A PE changing the opinions of another PE is at risk of losing their license. On the other hand, the non-licensed AF’s risk nothing. There are no long-term personal or professional consequences when they change the opinions of a PE to an opinion that the AF thinks will favor the client. The non –licensed AF may get fired, but there is no license to lose. They could just go on being an AF at another national forensic engineering firm.
So, how do you, the insurance or legal professional make sure you get a true and correct Engineering Report? It is not that hard. Insist that the Engineering Report you receive comes from the PE that performed the investigation and wrote the report. It is that simple. You demand that it comes straight from the horse’s (PE’s) mouth.
Only you, the insurance and legal professional (i.e. the Market Place) can reverse the trend of changing the opinions in Engineering Reports. Make sure that the eyes of the last person who saw the Engineering Report before you were those of the PE who wrote it.
Richard A. Rice, PE
Mutual Engineering, Inc. – MEI
Board Certified Forensic Engineer