Insurance Engineering

Aidan O’Connell & Associates Ltd. are one of the country’s leading Expert Insurance Engineering practices when it comes to Insurance investigation and reporting.

We have established a reputation for producing quality reports which give a definitive answer to the question being asked of us. We undertake in the region of 400 insurance inspections annually, covering the entire range of claims, as outlined below: –

Subsidence

The pure definition of Subsidence is the downward movement of the ground independent of the loadings placed upon them. Whilst incidences of pure subsidence are quite rare, we are frequently asked to provide an Engineering opinion on Insurance claims which have been lodged as subsidence due to external factors.

We establish the proximate cause of the damage and the extent of any damage to the building in question. It may be necessary to undertake some further investigation such as trial holes to establish the type, depth and size of foundations or dynamic probing, drains testing, CCTV survey of pipework and watermain testing and leak detection. We currently investigate in the region of 100 subsidence claims in Ireland each year on behalf of both Insurance companies and private home owners.

We currently investigate in the region of 100 subsidence claims in Ireland each year on behalf of both Insurance companies and private home owners.

Building Damage

Building damage comes in numerous forms and causes and we are frequently called upon by both Insurance companies and private homeowners to investigate the cause and extent of such damage.

In certain instances, the cause of the damage is instantly recognisable; these are relatively rare in our experience.

Whilst the point from which the damage is emanating is clear, the extent of the damage and the fault which has led to the problem may only become clear after a detailed engineering inspection has been carried out.

Our team of engineers undertake each and every inspection with the care and attention required and give each case the dedication it needs in order to reach the correct engineering determination.

Flooding

Over the past 4/5 years the numbers of flooding cases we have been asked to investigate have increased dramatically. This is due to a combination of factors including the vastly increased area of land upon which buildings and hard standing areas are now situated. There are also instances where the course of a river or stream has been changed by a development, or where a stream/drain has been culverted beneath a development/building. In some instances, these diverted water courses have become blocked in periods of heavy rainfall by debris, leading to extensive flooding/damage to property. In these cases, we undertake a comprehensive flood investigation to establish whether the new works were a contributory factor in the damage or if the flood was an inevitable event.

As well as investigating the cause of the flooding, we also identify the extent of the damage caused by same and comment on the required remediation. This can involve the appointment of external expert companies and liaising with same to obtain the requisite information to allow us to provide a comprehensive report.

Fire Damaged Buildings

We have inspected numerous fire damaged buildings from apartments to large industrial/commercial buildings. Our primary concern regarding fire affected properties is to establish the extent of the damage to the structure and to ascertain the structural viability of the building as it stands. We provide an independent appraisal based on the facts before us on the day of our inspection.

Certain situations where fire damage has occurred to a building have presented issues which may not have been apparent at first. A scenario such as a hollow block dwelling house which has suffered substantial fire damage may at first glance appear straightforward as the external walls must be demolished but no damage has occurred to the floor slab. This will of course mean the construction of new load bearing sections of the structure. While there is no damage to the floor slab, the existing rising walls and foundations may not be adequate for the construction of a new dwelling in accordance with the Building regulations in place at the time of reconstruction. Hence, provision for new foundations, etc. must be considered when issuing the report.

We approach all fire damaged buildings with a view to identifying the full extent of both the visible damage and the problems which may not be fully apparent. Our report will reflect the full extent of all the issues which exist and not just the clearly visible ones.

Storm Damage

Whilst thankfully here in Ireland we do not experience the kind of storms which are found in other parts of the world, or at least not as frequently, we do have extremes of weather which can cause damage to buildings in a variety of ways.

The most frequent type of what could be classed as storm damage found in Ireland relates to buildings damaged by wind.

This can manifest itself in numerous ways, such as lifting of slates or tiles. Of course, what initially appears to be damage caused by wind could also be as a result of an inherent defect either in the material or materials used or in the workmanship utilised to install those materials.

Where roof tiles have been dislodged during a period of high winds, it may indeed be the case that incorrect nails or inadequate nailing was carried out. Whilst this may not be immediately apparent, our extensive site inspections and investigations will identify the cause of the damage which has occurred.

Landslip/Erosion

Landslip is best defined as large scale downslope ground movement caused by slope instability. The phenomenon of landslip is most prevalent in coastal areas but can occur anywhere where a steep section of land is situated.

Whilst gravity is the primary force from which landslip derives, there are several other factors which affect the slope stability. Typically, there will be an underlying issue with the soil type, angle of incidence or some other factor which makes the ground susceptible to failure. These factors, when combined with gravitational pull or the addition of an additional outside influence, can trigger the landslip. It is important to investigate all of the mitigating factors in order to identify the actual cause of the failure prior to issuing an opinion.

We have investigated many instances over the past 10 years, and have devised solutions to remediate affected properties.

Pyrite

The phenomenon of Pyrite is something which was relatively unheard of in Ireland prior to 2007 but has become a major issue in Ireland over the past 4/5 years. Aidan O’Connell & Associates Ltd. are at the forefront of pyrite investigation and remediation in Ireland, having been involved in this process since 2008, as the appointed Engineering Consultancy for the Premier Guarantee Scheme. In this role, we have investigated and overseen the remediation of upwards of 600 pyrite affected properties to date. We have also been highly involved with the NSAI in developing two National Standards which are being used as the basis for the remediation of Pyrite affected properties not covered by the Premier Guarantee Scheme.

The separate section on our website gives more comprehensive information on this subject.

Read more…

Expert Witness

An expert witness is a witness, who by education, training, skill or experience, is believed to have expertise and specialised knowledge in a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially and legally rely upon the witness’s expert opinion, as an assistance to a court or arbitration hearing. Expert witnesses may also deliver expert evidence about facts from the domain of their expertise

As Expert Engineers, we have been called upon on numerous occasions to provide expert witness testimony at Conciliations, Mediations, Arbitrations and Circuit, District and High Court Cases. Our aim in these situations is to provide factual, unbiased opinions that can be clearly understood by all parties involved. At both Arbitrations and Litigations, the presenting of evidence is dealt with in the same way, with testimony given under oath followed by cross-examination. In Mediation, the aim is to agree a solution between the parties involved without the need for either an Arbitration or Court hearing.

Should you have a need for an Engineer to act as an expert witness for any technical situation, please do not hesitate to contact our office and one of our experienced Engineers will be happy to discuss your requirements with you.

Unusual Cases

From time to time we are called upon to investigate insurance claims or accidents which are the result of an unusual event or outside influence. Our primary goal in these investigations is, as with every investigation we undertake, to establish the cause and extent of the damage to the building.

In certain instances, it may be a requirement to establish if the event could have been avoided, such as in the case of an industrial unit which has collapsed due to the loadings imposed on it by snow. In this case, we will undertake structural analysis of the building to determine if there was an inherent defect which contributed to the failure.

Other unusual cases we have examined include buildings which have been struck by vehicles, both manned and unmanned, a helicopter crash causing damage and buildings struck by lightning.