Many times, when people hear the words “forensic science,” the initial instinct is to think of the typical TV crime show scenario, involving violent crimes and murder (enter in any various song by The Who). While there is no argument that forensics plays a significant role in these types of situations, many times people don’t realize the value that forensic techniques can have for other types of scenarios. Criminal forensics is only one division of the forensic science field. Another legal area that can benefit greatly from forensics analyses is the branch of civil law. Civil litigation involves disputes between parties in which compensation rather than punishment is the focus, which could include anything from various torts to contract laws to property laws. Just as in criminal law, civil law involves a need for evidence to prove a case.
Many types of evidence found in civil cases can been analyzed and interpreted in the same fashion as evidence from criminal cases. For example, a civil case involving property damage (e.g. vandalism) may be able to take advantage of something like forensic paint or fracture match analyses. Tort laws involving accidents or negligence could benefit from various types of materials and/or product investigative analyses in the laboratory. Patent infringement cases are another form of civil litigation, and could absolutely take advantage of various forensic methodologies, including forensic paint, tape, and other various materials analyses methods.
In short, forensic science is simply utilizing methodologies to evaluate evidence and determine facts about that evidence, whether it is related to a criminal or civil matter. The key is to examine what the case involves, what evidence is available, and if forensic analysis of the evidence could aid in establishing the facts of that particular case.
Recently Gateway hosted a webinar Intro to Forensic Analysis for Civil Product Liability Claims that covered a general overview of product liability testing, and how forensics can be used to support product liability cases.