“What I like most about the work is the problem-solving. I was born to be a problem solver and this work is by definition solving problems. I have a strong desire to analyze the aftermath of a property loss and/or personal injury incident and figure out what happened. I’ve always been extremely curious about technical things, particularly engineering issues. When I discovered forensic engineering, I dove right in,” says David Bosch, Ph.D., contract forensic engineer and day-to-day operations manager for Forensic Engineering, Inc.
Forensic engineering is the investigation of materials, products, structures or components that fail, causing personal injury and/or property damage. The Tempe-based firm provides a wide range of forensic consulting services to attorneys, insurance companies and manufacturing firms. These services include forensic engineering, engineering design, failure analysis, litigation consultation, investigation and expert testimony. Bosch’s partners in the firm are Dean Jacobson, Ph.D. and Scott Anderson, MS.
Forensic Engineering, Inc. is the oldest forensic engineering firm in Arizona and has more than 60 years combined experience in the field. In addition to its consultation services, the firm offers extensive facilities for scientific testing and storage of evidence.
Bosch’s specialties include forensic and design engineering, material and corrosion failures, fire-related investigations, property liability, construction defects, and automotive cases, including trucks, motorcycles and off-road vehicles, as well as litigation consultation and expert testimony.
The Evolution of an Expert Bosch says, “I evolved from an early age into the present forensic engineering work, starting in my family’s automotive/ truck business.”
He says he grew up working in his father’s truck dealership in South Dakota, eventually working his way through all shop activities, earning an ASE certification as a master light and medium truck technician which he has maintained to this day.
That early, practical experience has helped guide his judgment in numerous automotive/trucking cases related to either accidents or losses due to the failure of components such as engine failures, drive-train failures, electrical malfunction fires, etc. His experience with motorcycles goes beyond repair and refurbishment. “I am a lifetime motorcycle rider. I’ve ridden more than a million miles and I’m intimately familiar with virtually all aspects of riding motorcycles, maintaining them and the underlying designs of the systems that are used on motorcycles to make them function.”
Bosch also worked extensively in other areas that have contributed to his forensic skills. He worked for a commercial building contractor for several years. “This was an invaluable experience in the sense that I learned how buildings are built, particularly how the different trades in the building industry work. The contractor did a little bit of everything so I learned carpentry, cabinetry, concrete and steel work. That helped me gain an insight into the tools I needed to do some of the work I now do in the forensic world – specifically the property liability, failure analysis and construction defect areas.”
He earned his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering with honors from South Dakota State University in 1987, his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Arizona State University in 1990 and his doctorate in materials science and engineering from ASU in 1994.
Jacobson, founder of Forensic Engineering, Inc., was Bosch’s master’s and doctorate adviser. “He keyed in on the fact that I had a sound practical background, particularly in the mechanical and automotive areas. As a graduate student, I worked on forensics cases with Dean. I wasn’t a testifying expert, but I was working in what I called the research and testing role. After I got my doctorate in 1994 every couple of years Dean would contact me and ask if I had had enough of the corporate world and if I was ready to come join his firm as a forensic engineer with the objective of eventually taking over Forensic Engineering,” Bosch says.
Balancing Formal Education with Real World Experience “To be strong in this business you need an extensive set of experiences. The most effective background includes extensive hands-on, practical experience combined with the formal education and associated research endeavors. Dean and I have such experience and education. And, we were very fortunate to have been able to hire Scott Anderson right after he finished his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. He has since obtained his master’s degree in metallurgical engineering,” Bosch says.
Jacobson founded Forensic Engineering, Inc. in 1975. He has more than 40 years of experience in failure analysis, materials engineering, metallurgy, mechanical engineering and engineering design. He has testified on behalf of plaintiffs and defendants in more than 400 cases, consulted in more than 1,400 cases, and has testified in more than 110 trials.
“Dean is semi-retired now but remains very active in the firm and assists on case and business development,” Bosch says. “He is a valued consultant to me. He is a mentor and a peer. Our interactions are key to the operation.”
Anderson has provided engineering support in more than 100 personal injury and product liability cases and been deposed multiple times. He joined the firm the summer before graduating so the transition from student to full-time consultant was a natural move. “Scott works very well in our environment and is quickly establishing himself in the business. And, Scott is presently working part time with Jacobson’s sons’ business getting the important engineering experience needed to continue to excel as a forensic engineer,” Bosch says.
Bosch says he employs a hands-off style of management. “I am like Dean in that I expect people to know what they’re doing and how to do it and to maintain their own awareness with regard to scheduling and deadlines. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to be managed. I want someone to be there when I need help, but that’s all I need and want.”
He says that there is a significant advantage in having a small operation. An excellent bookkeeper, experienced office manager and three engineers who are highly-qualified and experienced mean that there’s not really that much to manage.
“We don’t have a lot of people and the people we employ have a wide variety of expertise. The small number of people makes it very easy to effectively communicate and share the status of the cases and to conduct continual peer review of the technical issues. We’re always sharing new developments, sharing ideas with each other, and doing what I call sanity checks to make sure we’re staying on target,” he says.
At least two engineers look at every report that goes out of the office and often two peer reviews are completed on a given report. Bosch says, “Our unique background allows us to have a better idea of some of the subtle aspects of engineered products that a person without practical experience or only a narrow area of engineering experience may not have.”
Being able to testify effectively is a critical component of the firm’s services. “When testifying you must go through all the steps required to tell the story. I’ve always been communicative, definitely an extrovert, which is almost mandatory if you’re going to communicate effectively with a jury on their level. You must also be able to communicate clearly in peer-to-peer relationships,” he says.
He enjoys appearing in court even though there is occasionally a downside. “The worst part of this job is that it often involves tragedy in the form of property loss and/or personal injury. With regard to testifying, there isn’t really anything I dislike. Over the years I have worked at jobs that required me to deal with a lot of different people. I’ve learned to deal with aggressive or abusive people starting when I worked in my father’s truck business. All in all I would say that testifying and teaching the jury while clarifying and communicating the truth of the engineering issues is my favorite part of the work.”
Bosch notes that there are many talented and experienced forensic engineering consultants, but only a small number are good communicators who can effectively convey the results of their discovery to a jury. “That ability is often not found in the forensic engineering consulting world. We are experienced in depositions and in court appearances. We enjoy it and we’re good at it,” Bosch says.