Structural Engineers

"Dear Carl,

What criteria do you use to determine that a structural engineer is qualified? Do you check undergraduate diplomas? Is there some sort of state registration?

Also, do you require engineers to show that they carry liability insurance?
If an engineer evaluates the plans and stamps them, but then the foundation collapses, what recourse does an owner have?

Will reputable engineers carry insurance that covers this sort of thing (analogous to malpractice insurance for physicians)? If so, should engineers be able to provide a certificate of insurance?

Is it called "general liability" insurance?

Thank you for your help and for your valuable web and print resources.

C. M., MD"

Photo courtesy of
Tanner Consulting

“Structural engineering is a field of engineering that deals with the design of a structural system(s) with the purpose of supporting and resisting various loads. A structural engineer is most commonly involved in the design of, and largely, the implementation of mechanics of the design of structures.” Tanner Consulting

Hi Doctor,
Most states require engineers, including structural engineers, to be licensed.
Most states or at least most locales also require them to be insured (liability insurance) and bonded.

A bonded professional has secured funds (controlled by the state) that are available for consumer's claims against the company. This money is directly available to you for various reasons as controlled by a state agency.

Liability insurance is a compulsory form of insurance for those at risk of being sued by third parties for negligence. A certificate of insurance should always be provided by the person or company you are hiring.

Click on image to enlarge
(For more on liability insurance, read Home Building - Subcontractor Insurance)

You can call your local building inspection department or your state dept of licensing to find out what is required in your state as to licensing requirements for engineers (you can probably find out on line too)

You could also call an Architectural firm to ask what the state licensing requirements for structural engineers.

Architects will know state licensing requirements for structural engineers as they use engineers in their own work.

Finding a Structural Engineer:

When you contact that Architect, get the name of a structural engineer that they would recommend (that gives you a reference check too)… as you want one with a lot of residential experience …. This is the way I would go.

Structural engineers specialize (like doctors) and you could narrow your search even further by contacting concrete suppliers, truss manufacturers, and/or structural steel fabricators if you so desired.

If you are worried about “malpractice”, find a Structural Engineer that also carries Errors & Omissions insurance (E & O) insurance. (It may even be required)

This type of insurance helps to protect a professional, an individual or a company, from bearing the full cost of defense for lawsuits relating to an error or omission in providing covered Professional Services. This is a separate coverage from a standard general liability.

Hope this helps,
Carl Heldmann,