If I were the contractor called in to restore power, I would first warn the building owner of potential litigation and recommend that he notify his insurance agent and his attorney and that he (the building owner) get their permission before the scene is disturbed and possible evidence is spoiled. If the building owner insisted that I remove the damaged equipment, I would ask him to give me those directions in writing and hold me harmless from spoiling the evidence.

Secondly, as the contractor, I would document the condition of the site and equipment before disturbing it. This could be done with photographs, videotape, hand notes and sketches and by interviewing anyone at the site who might have seen the incident.

As the forensic engineer arriving on site after the repairs have started, I would immediately contact the attorney for the insurance company and fill him in on what is transpiring and also inform him of the likelihood of evidence spoliation and the fact that there was a personal injury. I do not believe that the forensic engineer has the authority to halt repairs nor the desire to accept the liability of lost business to the mall if the repairs are not completed on time due to his interference.

The forensic engineer should document the condition of the scene upon his arrival via photographs, and persuade the contractor that it would be in his best interest to preserve as much evidence as possible. The forensic engineer should interview anyone at the site with information about the incident, but the interview of the injured electrician should be left to the attorneys.

Ron Panuto, P.E.
Dawson Engineering

Back to Forensics.