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Forensic engineering is the investigation of materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not operate or function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property. The consequences of failure are dealt with by the law of product liability. The field also deals with retracing processes and procedures leading to accidents in operation of vehicles or machinery. The subject is applied most commonly in civil law cases, although it may be of use in criminal law cases. Generally, the purpose of a forensic engineering investigation is to locate cause or causes of failure with a view to improve performance or life of a component, or to assist a court in determining the facts of an accident. It can also involve investigation of intellectual property claims, especially patents.
As the field of engineering has evolved over time, so has the field of forensic engineering. Early examples include investigation of bridge failures such as the Tay rail bridge disaster of 1879 and the Dee bridge disaster of 1847. Many early rail accidents prompted the invention of tensile testing of samples and fractography of failed components.
Vital to the field of forensic engineering is the process of investigating and collecting data related to the materials, products, structures or components that failed. This involves inspections, collecting evidence, measurements, developing models, obtaining exemplar products, and performing experiments. Often testing and measurements are conducted in an Independent testing laboratory or other reputable unbiased laboratory.
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