Perhaps the most frequently asked question about motor vehicle accidents is “Who was at fault?” The answer to this question is an essential requirement in any lawsuit to recover damages. But the determination of fault is not always simple.
Merely looking at the scene does not answer many vital questions. How fast were the vehicles traveling? Did one driver fail to obey a traffic sign? Did one vehicle suffer unexpected damage?
What injuries were suffered by anyone in the involved vehicles? Was mechanical failure the culprit?
The answers to these questions are often answered through a scientific discipline known as forensic engineering or accident reconstruction.
The basics of accident reconstruction
To understand what happened, the accident reconstruction investigator will first make a careful visual inventory of the site.
The investigator will measure and mark the post-accident location of the vehicles and collect on-site debris after noting its position. The investigator will also measure and photograph other artifacts of the accident, such as skid marks, engine fluid stains and damaged roadside infrastructure.
Investigators do further analysis in a laboratory. For instance, they compare the degree of metal deformation with industry standard reference manuals to determine the amount of energy released in the collision. This calculation leads directly to determining the respective speeds of each vehicle.
Another critical aspect of post-accident investigation is interviewing witnesses. Bystanders often make important observations about the movement of the vehicles before and after the collision. This information can be correlated with information gathered at the scene.
Forensic investigators collect enormous amounts of data; this data can be loaded into accident reconstruction software to create graphic images of the paths followed by each vehicle before and after the collision. These simulations are often shown to juries in trials where the issue is recovering damages from the party or parties at fault.
The fees charged by forensic engineers can be high, but their services are often essential to a successful outcome in court. An experienced accident attorney can provide advice on whether to higher a forensic engineer to assist with the investigation.