Damage Caused By
Construction At An Adjoining Building
Specializing in Expert Witness
Services For Plaintiffs
And Third-Party Defendants
Licensed Engineers and Expert Witnesses serving
Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx,
Staten Island, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland,
Putnam, and Westchester
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When constructing a building, care must be taken to protect adjoining buildings. This is especially critical in the City of New York, where there are many attached buildings. The City and State of New York have specific building code requirements for how adjoining buildings are to be protected. Despite all the protections in place, buildings sometimes suffer damage.
In many cases, building codes are ignored by contractors trying to complete a job quickly. Sometimes, the affect is a simple as a few cosmetic cracks. In other cases, serious structural or foundation damage occurs.
In performing investigations of damage caused by adjacent construction, Heimer Engineering's Licensed Engineers analyze the building and assess the damage. If appropriate, photographs or measurements are taken to document the conditions at the site. The scope of the damage is determined, and a report is prepared.
After examining the site, a report is prepared describing the conditions at the site, the cause of the damage, and the code and reference standard violated. The reports are clearly written and help all parties understand the scope and cause of the damage.
There may be violations of City of New York Building Code or the State of New York Building Code. Code violations are included in the reports, where applicable.
Building Codes And
It is important to accurately determine which building codes (and other codes, regulations, and standards) are applicable to a specific accident. When a building is constructed, it is constructed under the codes, regulations, and standards are in force in the municipality at the time of construction.
Heimer Engineering has
an Extensive Library of
Codes, regulations, and standards change over time, and modifications are made to existing buildings and sites. It is important to examine the history of the building and site to the extent possible to determine what codes, standards, and regulations are applicable. The Engineer's report should be based on what, in the Engineer's professional opinion, are the applicable codes, regulations, and standards.
The term "grandfathered" is often applied to existing construction and building sites. Saying a building or site is "grandfathered" is often inaccurate. The term "grandfathered" only applies to original and unaltered construction. "Grandfathered" also requires that no changes were made without required permits and approvals. Once a change is made to a building or site, newer building codes, standards, and municipal regulations often become applicable. For example, making a change to the interior of a building might require that exterior steps be brought up to modern codes.
Heimer Engineering has an extensive library of searchable historical building codes, dating back 65 years for The State of New York and over 130 years for The City of New York1. We also have electronic access to hundreds of current state, town, and village codes. This helps us find the applicable codes. Our library also includes Multiple Dwelling laws and tenement laws.
Just because a building
complied with the applicable
codes at the time
constructed does not mean that
hazardous defects are permitted.
Even if the building or site is unaltered, it may not have complied with the codes, standards, and regulations in effect at the time the building was constructed. Many older codes, standards, and regulations are not as explicit as their more modern counterparts.
The Engineer needs to consider both the wording and the correct application of the code, standard, or regulation. In addition, the injury may have been caused by faulty maintenance.
Just because a building complied with the applicable codes at the time it was constructed does not mean that hazardous defects are permitted. Failing to maintain a building or site in a safe condition is never "grandfathered".
1Not all applicable codes are available, and some are available but not in a searchable format.
Proximate cause is often defined as the immediate or closest cause. When examining a site or building where a personal injury accident occurred, it is important to determine the proximate cause of the accident that resulted in the injury. to the plaintiff.
Heimer Engineering's Engineers have seen many reports where defects were cited, but are irrelevant to the accident that caused the injury. For example, if a client fell at the top of a set of steps, defects near the bottom of the steps are irrelevant.
Unfortunately, there are many experts who look only to find a defect and never determine if it is the proximate cause of the accident that resulted in the plaintiff's injury. Heimer Engineering takes the time to obtain the details of the accident, so only relevant facts are included in the reports. Engineering reports that include irrelevant code violations may sound good, but these reports can be defeated in summary judgment because the cited defects are irrelevant to the accident and the subsequent injuries.
De Minimis Defects
The question is who decides if a defect is de minimis? Is it decided by the Attorneys, the law, or the Engineer? Engineers need to take into account whether a defect is de minimis in determining the proximate cause of an accident and subsequent injury. It a Professional Engineer determines that a defect is the proximate cause of an injury, then it is axiomatic that the defect is not de minimis.
"Old School" Engineers
After World War II, Engineering moved from war-related work to developing products for consumers and of national interest (such as the space program). There were few universally accepted standards other than building codes and mechanical standards (for example, screw sizes or wire sizes). Many of the Engineers who graduated college before the mid-1970s were used to creating their own standards, and possibly changing these standards from project to project. These "Old School" Engineers worked according to rules and standards created on an as-needed basis.
Although organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) began developing standards after World War I, many of these standards did not take on the force of law until the 1960s when were incorporated into Building Codes. In addition, organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) set and enforced standards. At the same time, organizations such as ANSI and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) set standards that began to be universally followed.
Some of the "Old School" Engineers retired from their full-time employment and went on to be consulting Engineers. The problem is that they continued to analyze the way they worked in the past. These Engineers approached accident investigations the same way they had worked their whole life. The result was reports that reflected the Engineer's standards or the Engineer's interpretation of Building Codes without regard to the realities of how the Department of Buildings interprets codes or accepted practices.
An example of the difference between old self-created standards universally accepted standards can be seen in the change in automobile safety in the last 50 years. In the late 1950s, automobile manufacturers began to talk about how safe their cars were. The standards for safety were set by automobile manufacturers. General Motors stated their cars had a "safety X-frame" in advertising. People bought these "safe" cars.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a video in 2009 that showed a frontal offset collision between a 1959 Chevrolet Impala and a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. Analysis after the collision showed that the driver of the 1959 Impala would have died instantly, and the driver of the 2009 Malibu might have sustained a knee injury.
This video illustrates the difference between self-defined standards and universally developed and accepted standards. By the self-defined standards of 1959, the Impala was "safe". By today's universally accepted standards, the 1959 Impala offers little safety.
When choosing a Professional Engineer, be careful of Engineers who define their own standards. While they may sound good, they will hold up no better under cross-examination based on today's standards than the 1959 Impala held up against the 2009 Malibu.
Engineer Experts Or Hired Guns?
Some expert witnesses are "hired guns". These experts provide a report in favor of their client regardless of the facts. Heimer Engineering's Engineers never exaggerate or embellish their findings. If there is no defect, that is what we report. There are Attorneys who will not use Heimer Engineering's services because we do not embellish the reports in favor of their clients.
Heimer Engineering never
exaggerates or embellishes
Some experts do whatever the Attorney asks them to do, and never bother to evaluate the situation. Heimer Engineering evaluates the information provided and advises, based on Engineering experience, as to what defects exist, the cause of the accident, etc. As an Attorney, you will be provided our professional opinion so that you know how to proceed with the litigation.
Embellishing a report or relying on a code reference that is not applicable may work, if the insurance company settles based on an exaggerated report. In other cases, the expert's statements in the inaccurate embellished report cannot stand up under cross-examination in a Court of Law. With Heimer Engineering, you can be sure you are receiving a professional opinion based on the facts as provided to the Engineer. Heimer Engineering will be able to defend the Engineer's report under cross examination.
Heimer Engineering never
codes that are not applicable
Accident or Incident
Accident has no clear meaning. An accident could be an injury caused by a property owner's negligence. An accident could be a mistake by the injured party. An accident could be caused by a contractor's negligence. There are many potential caused of an accident.
Heimer Engineering's Professional Engineers evaluate incidents. Someone is injured, and that is the incident. It is only after the incident is evaluated that negligence can be established and blame determined.
When an incident is evaluated, there is no pre-conceived notion of who is negligent. The incident is evaluated from an unbiased point of view, including the application of Engineering principles. Only after all the facts related to the incident are determined can negligence and blame be determined.
Expert Witness Court Testimony
Clearly written reports help make it clear how defects at a site contributed to an accident and injury. Clearly written accurate reports can help you settle a case and avoid the time and expense of a trial.
If the case has to be litigated in a court of law, Heimer Engineering's Professional Engineers serve as expert witnesses, and have qualified as expert witnesses in United States Federal Courts and at all levels of State of New York Courts.
For questions regarding Professional Engineer expert witness services, call 631.820.4500.
Contact Heimer Engineering 24/7
We are happy to help you. To set up an appointment for a pre-purchase inspection, or to find out about Engineering services or expert court testimony, click below for a contact form, send us an email, text us at 6602 0091 55, or call 800.605.1500. If no staff member is in the office, leave a message. Remember to ask about a web discount.
Heimer Engineering serves the Metro New York area, including New York City (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island), Long Island (Nassau County, Suffolk County), and Upstate New York (Rockland County, Putnam County, and Westchester County).
Heimer Engineering respects your privacy. Some inspection firms share information with insurance, landscaping, home maintenance, moving, cable, mortgage, and other companies. Some inspection firms sell their client lists. These practices are unethical. You will not receive phone calls or solicitation emails from third parties as a result of providing personal information.
In the event of a life-threatening emergency (fire, building in danger of collapse, facade with loose bricks, debris falling from a building, gas leak, etc.) do not call Heimer Engineering. If there is a life-threatening emergency or other hazardous condition, call 911. Emergency situations need to be handled immediately by first-responders who can evacuate buildings, have utilities shut off, and take other steps necessary to preserve life.
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Heimer Engineering performs home inspections, building inspections, condominium inspections, and co-op inspections in the State of New York. We do not perform inspections or recommend Inspectors or Engineers in the areas outside of the State of New York. We also provide Licensed Professional Engineer consultation services including hurricane and storm damage and damage from adjoining construction. Expert witness services are provided regarding playground injuries, parking lot, walkway, and stairway slip, trip, and fall.
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