Escapes Of Water: Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

On 10 January 2019, Mrs Nicola Fallowfield-Smith of Hawkins’ Reigate Office led a seminar at Sedgwick’s office in Whiteley, Hampshire. Her programme consisted of two presentations, entitled:

“Everyone Knows Escapes of Water are Boring”


“Whose Fault Is It Anyway?”

Nicola encouraged loss adjusters to use a multifaceted approach when determining the possible recovery prospects after an incident. In the last three years, the average cost of Escape of Water claims has risen by 31%. This has prompted Hawkins investigators to spread the word not only about how these claims are just as complex and interesting as fire incidents, but also about how even seemingly commonplace incidents deserve a second look when trying to assess what may have caused a failure. Nicola covered the go-to excuses she frequently hears when the quality of a fitting on a pipe comes into question, as well as the techniques and testing a forensic engineer can undertake in order to expose the true cause behind a plumbing failure.

“Don’t you hate it when your expansion vessel just explodes, or your pipes start getting woodworm?” Nicola asks, “We often hear that certain failures are, ‘just one of those things’.” However unlike fires, she explains, it is often possible to determine the cause of an escape of water with much more certainty, based on the evidence left behind. Examining a pipe’s fracture surface in the lab, taking water samples for analysis, looking at a pipe’s maintenance history, taking pressure readings, examining corrosion, and carrying out an energy-dispersive X-ray analysis are processes an engineer can undertake to eliminate both the mystery, and doubt, surrounding a potential recovery. 

Nicola on the site of a very interesting escape of water.

In Nicola’s new Game Show ‘Whose Fault is it Anyway’, loss adjusters had the opportunity to participate by doing their best to recognise the potential for recovery at an early stage in various example claims. The audience voted to see if they could win the glory of correctly identifying whether the manufacturer, designer, builder, homeowner, or other interested party’s actions could have contributed to the failure associated with an incident.

The culmination of both presentations was a list of the best practices for loss adjusters to undertake when dealing with a new escape of water claim: retain any physical evidence, find out what has changed, collect all relevant paperwork, and if you think you may need forensic advice--get it as soon as possible. Nicola also led a Forensic Clinic, in which the audience could bring specific questions about their own current claims to her for specific insights from an engineering perspective.

If you would like to schedule a visit from a Hawkins engineer, so that your office may take part in a forensic lecture or clinic, please get in touch

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