We all recognize that there are two sides to every story. This situation arises frequently in motor vehicle collision cases, when the parties involved have different versions of what occurred. The physical and emotional trauma of a serious crash may also prevent an injured party from properly and fully remembering exactly what happened. As a result, independent accident reconstruction analysts are often used to establish the specific details and evidence that may be able to help determine who was at fault — and prove a disputed case.
What do accident reconstruction experts do?
In a motor vehicle collision case, an accident reconstructionist can use forensic data to establish liability (who was negligent) and causation (what harm was caused by that negligence). Evidence can be gathered from the scene of the crash, from examining the vehicles, and from extracting data from the vehicles themselves. The types of processes used by these investigators include:
- Investigating the crash site for clues like skid marks, damage to the surrounding area, the facts about the road and signage
- Determining the point of contact
- Examine the damage to the vehicles
- Considering the time of day and weather conditions
- Examine data provided by the vehicle’s onboard computer
Most vehicles contain an event data recorder (what is often known as a “black box”) that records information like speed, velocity changes, braking, seatbelt usage and wheel turns. Many accident reconstruction experts download the event data recorder to find out what the vehicles (and drivers) were doing in the time leading up to the crash. They then apply principles of physics, engineering and math to provide opinions regarding the particulars of how the accident occurred, including collision angles and visibility.
Building a case
An accident reconstruction expert can gather the evidence and opinions to support a driver’s claim that he or she was not at fault and that the other driver was negligent. That expert can then testify in court and provide information to the jury that may help to prove the case. Accident reconstructionists sometimes prepare and offer computer simulations of the collision that can aid the jury to understand the dynamics and sequence of events. These types of experts — and they work they do — can be critical to success at trial.