The difference between winning and losing a fire loss case might hinge upon the scientific principles applied during the investigation. The more complex the issues, the more difficult it can be to demonstrate that scientific principles were applied in an appropriate (and acceptable) manner.  If it comes down to a difference of opinion between a formally educated scientist or fire protection engineer and a fire investigator without these credentials, who do you think holds the trump card?

In court, an argument of scientific principles would likely fall in favor of the person with the most knowledge and experience. Becoming a fire protection engineer requires years of training in science and engineering, making them a valuable resource that can help lawyers make their case.

Proving Expertise

Finding a qualified expert witness in a fire loss case isn’t like finding expertise in other fields. For example, presumably all licensed medical doctors or certified public accountants have a degree of post-secondary education. This is not the case in fire investigation.  For example, neither of the national certifications for fire investigation (i.e., CFI or CFEI) require any post-secondary education. Thus, many fire loss investigators have not formal or rigorous training in science and engineering. A licensed fire protection engineer will ensure the some level of formal training, but there are other details that need to be discussed during the selection process.

To find a qualified expert witness, vetting is a must. Besides common checks like reviewing a CV and possible disciplinary actions in the past, lawyers should also confirm the fire protection engineering licenses up to date. A more nuanced detail is to check for professional membership with the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE). Many industries have their own trade group, some are more serious than others. Active membership with the SFPE is a good indication as to whether a fire protection engineer is keeping up to date with the latest science and news in the industry.

Have A Fire Protection Engineer In Your Roladex

Fire cases and fire litigation can be complex.  Knowing what questions to ask and what level of expertise is needed can be difficult to ascertain while still sifting through the ashes.  That’s why having a qualified fire protection engineer in your ‘Roladex’ can give you an edge.  If you want to understand the details of any fire scenario, get in touch with a qualified fire protection engineer with experience investigating fire losses, and they will be glad to help.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.