Forensic Engineering Analysis: Biomechanics is an Engineering Discipline

Article Author: William E. Lee III, PhD, PE (NAFE 655S)

Volume: 33
Volume #: 2
Month: December
Year: 2016

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Abstract:

Forensic engineering experts with expertise in the field of biomechanics are frequently retained to conduct a biomechanical analysis of some injury-related incident. This may involve the areas of injury event reconstruction, what forces may have been involved, how the person responded to these forces, and whether injury mechanisms consistent with the claimed injuries were (or were not) established during the incident. It is the view of some engineering biomechanics experts that the presentation of injury mechanism-related opinions is based on biomechanics (a subject of engineering) and is not intended to serve as an opinion regarding injury causation (i.e., was the claimant injured as a result of the described incident). Attorneys have challenged the ability of forensic engineering biomechanics experts to offer injury mechanism-related opinions (and often the other areas described above) based on a theory that “biomechanics” is not a subject of engineering, but rather a subject of medicine, and, in turn, the engineering expert should not be allowed to present such opinions. This paper explores the validity of this claim, focusing on the academic evidence. More specifically, academic programs within the United States in both the areas of engineering and medicine were examined to find evidence of formal classes in the area of biomechanics, dedicated biomechanics research activities, current textbooks and references (focusing on author affiliation), and other academic-related activities.

Keywords:

Biomechanics, injury analysis, biomedical engineering, forensic engineering