report … remedied the gross errors regarding observed damage and cause and
is reasonable and accurate in its content
and conclusions.” The supplemental report after the visit on Jan. 25, 2013 was
also found to be “reasonable in its content
and conservative in its conclusions.”
The reporting process
Engineers working for FEMA are typically paid a flat fee for their expertise, regardless of their conclusions. Interviews
with engineers from multiple firms confirmed that no reputable engineer would
be willing to jeopardize his or her reputation and credentials by filing a false engineering report.
“A client ‘not liking the answer’ is never
a reason to change the report,” says Ran-
dy Clarksean, Ph.D., P.E., vice president
of failure analysis for ARCCA, a Phila-
delphia-based forensic engineering firm.
“The engineer investigating the loss or
event should prepare the same report —
no matter whose name is on the check.”
ARCCA uses the peer review process
to “ensure the expert has covered all as-
pects of the loss and that the report is
clear and reads well, along with mak-
ing sure nothing was missed during the
inspection phase. This last review is our
quality control step,” stresses Clarksean.
The only reason to change a report af-
ter it’s been finalized, adds Clarksean, is if
there is new data that was not considered
when writing the original report. Docu-
ments are usually sent to clients in an
Adobe Portable Document Format (pdf)
to decrease the chances of their being ed-
ited or changed. And changing a report
is unlikely to happen in ethical organiza-
tions without notifying the engineering
manager and the author.
Kestner agrees, saying that Haag uses
electronic signing and sealing so they can
tell if a report has been modified after it
has been signed and sealed.
Engineers are licensed by individual
states and cannot sign a report for a state
where they are not licensed. An engineer
licensed in a different state can perform
an inspection and help prepare a report,
but the engineer of record who is respon-
sible and signs a report must be licensed
in that particular state.
If a report needs to be changed after
it is filed, an addendum like the one
added to the Ramey case can be added
and what was changed or added must be
The process for commercial or multi-
tenant buildings is much more complex.
Jon Colatrella, CEM, CBCP, is a senior
manager with Howard L. Zimmerman
Architects, P.C., a full-service engineer-
ing and architectural firm in New York
City. The company deals in high rise
buildings and had many clients along the
New York coastline.
Their investigations start with a larger
team comprising mechanical and struc-
tural engineers and architects. An inves-
tigation can last days or weeks and their
reports are extensive, covering all of the
different disciplines. “Multiple people
write the report,” he said. “There could be
the actual engineers in the field who are
doing their respective portions of the field
report that are then reviewed internally by
the department head of those disciplines
and signed off by the principal of the firm.
That’s how any of our projects usually go.”
The reports are then forwarded to the
individual insurers. Sometimes the firm
is hired to handle redesigns or corrective
work. If other issues come to light as they
handle those investigations and gather
more information, the initial report is
supplemented with that data.
The rest of the story
The lawsuit and judge’s remarks made the
headlines, but a deeper investigation into
the issues involved in many claims finds
that while there may have been underpaid claims, a host of factors contributed
to the underpayments.
“Many homes were damaged by Sandy
and inspected by engineers. There were
some homes that should have been inspected but weren’t,” said Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders,
a California-based non-profit that provides insurance information and serves
as a voice for consumers in the U.S. “Most
independent adjusters (IAs) were told
to try and adjust the losses themselves.
There have been a larger number of
claims where the full extent of the Sandy
damages were not assessed by engineers.”
Bach says another issue involved the experience of the adjusters working the losses. “Most independent adjusters operated
under the principles that all adjusters work