Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler July 24, 2015

One of the key elements in car wreck injury claims is the process of accident reconstruction. This involves retelling the story of a collision to support your claim that another driver was at fault and caused your injury, thus helping you to collect liability payments from his or her insurer.

What Is Accident Reconstruction?

Accident reconstruction often involves a team of scientific experts who specialize in reconstructing the scene of an accident. Their job is to investigate, analyze and formulate conclusions about a collision’s events and causes.

Accident reconstruction is especially important in cases of severe injuries or death. The testimony of reconstruction professionals can provide the difference between gaining substantial payments for injury or death and being denied such payments. However, both sides in a car wreck lawsuit — plaintiffs and defendants — may hire their own accident reconstruction team, whose findings may conflict in court.

Professionals may provide models, simulations, animations or illustrations to indicate precisely what occurred and how it happened, as well as how it could have been avoided. These things will not necessarily be established by medical records or by police reports, so in some ways, court proceedings are reliant on accident reconstruction.

Who Are Accident Reconstruction Experts?

Accident reconstruction experts tend to be trained teams which work independently but are hired consistently either by plaintiffs’ attorneys or by defendants’ attorneys. The cost of the process can be several thousand dollars.

Experts are likely to have specialized training in engineering, physics, law enforcement and science. They may evaluate the accident scene in terms of physics, while calculating the movements (trajectories) and speeds of vehicles.

How Is An Accident ‘Reconstructed’?

Accident reconstruction starts with the expert visiting the scene of the crash, where he or she photographs and inspects the scene.

They also interview witnesses, evaluate the condition of the vehicles involved, assess environmental elements such as weather and road conditions, size up visibility issues, note road signs or signals, and then analyze or interpret their findings. That also may involve studying police reports, photos taken at the scene and statements or depositions from witnesses or victims.

Reconstruction experts also may make models, use 3-D animation, create diagrams or develop software simulations to recreate an accident. They also may conduct a risk analysis to determine what actions caused the crash and what actions might have avoided it.

Essentially, these specialists reconstruct an accident in reverse. They begin with vehicles’ final resting positions and damage, as well as evidence at the scene, and then work backward to determine speeds, visibility, driver behavior and other elements which led to the crash. Driver or passenger injuries also are analyzed to determine how they happened and why.

In the end, accident reconstruction should be a scientific analysis of data. Once a final report is produced, this forms the basis of the experts’ court testimony. When each side uses such experts to support their case, the most persuasive and convincing testimony should prevail.

Keep in mind that accident reconstruction teams are not concerned with advancing a cause regardless of evidence, but rather demonstrating the realities of a case. Findings may not fully support the case of the plaintiff or defendant who hired them. The experts must be truthful with clients and alert them if they cannot contribute to the case.

A car accident lawyer conducts other work in preparing a case, such as taking depositions (statements) of the persons involved. One of a car wreck attorney’s jobs may be to locate and hire an accident reconstruction team.

What About Black Box Data?

Many recent vehicles have been equipped with recordable airbag modules also known as “black boxes” which note various data in a crash. That can include brake application, vehicle speed and seatbelt status (whether or not occupants were wearing seatbelts).

An accident reconstruction expert may be able to download this data and get a fuller picture of how and why an accident happened.

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