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Risky Business

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I received the July, 2002 issue of Structural Engineer magazine ( today, and found a particularly interesting article on Page 11 entitled, "Study: structural engineering is the highest risk design discipline".  The subject study was undertaken by DPIC, a large professional liability insurer, based on their claims from 1996 to 2000.  This included a total of 8,687 claims, of which 990 were structural.  Here are some of the conclusions:
*  DPIC measures relative risk as claims paid divided by fees earned.  Structural engineers accounted for 16.1% of claims dollars paid, but earned only 6.7% of fees.  By comparison, civil engineers accounted for 21.5% of claims dollars paid, but earned 29.0% of fees.
*  The single highest risk category is a structural engineer working on a residential condominium project.  These projects accounted for 11% of all structural claims dollars paid.
*  Broken down by building system, structural claims included 14% for walls, 13% for foundations, 12% for beams and joists, and 10% for roofs.
*  The number of structural claims can also be broken down by type of claim, with 47% for property damage, 40% for economic loss, and 12% for bodily injury.
*  About 62% of structural claims were made by owners and clients, 25% by third parties, and 11% by contractors and subcontractors.
I suggest that you keep these numbers in mind the next time your client wants a deeply discounted fee on his urgent but highly innovative condominium project!
Best regards,
Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas
Structural engineering is the art of molding materials
we don't wholly understand, into shapes we can't fully
analyze, so as to withstand forces we can't really assess,
in such a way that the community at large has no reason
to suspect the extent of our ignorance."     ...Jim Amrhein
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