If you were hurt in a car accident, your memories of the collision may not be entirely clear, especially if you suffered serious injuries. Plus, your memory of what happened may differ from the account given by the other driver or casual witnesses.
How can you prove what really happened and who is at fault? In many cases, attorneys bring in expert witnesses, including accident reconstruction engineers. These highly-trained and experienced professionals analyze evidence from the scene of a crash to reveal a surprising array of facts of the events leading up to the impact. From this evidence, it can be easy to see the actions that caused the accident and tell with whom the fault lies.
Car Accident Reconstruction Experts Look at Marks on the Road After a Collision
Like police officers at a murder investigation, car accident reconstruction experts comb over details at an accident scene to find clues that might not have an obvious meaning to the untrained eye. Attorneys know that skid marks often offer some of the most critical insights into the causes of an accident. A skid mark is caused by a vehicle’s tires sliding (rather than rotating) across the road surface. The skid is often the result of the driver applying the brake, but it can also be caused by a collision or other reasons. While we tend to think of skid marks as a heavy black smear on asphalt, they look very different on some surfaces. For instance, skid marks may be visible as scratches on a surface with considerable loose gravel or other abrasive material.
Somewhat different from skid marks are scuff marks and yaw marks. A scuff mark is made when a tire is sliding while also rotating on the road surface. Scuff marks can indicate acceleration when the driving wheels still have enough power to spin. When a tire is slipping mostly parallel to its axis while rotating, it leaves a yaw mark, which indicates a steering pattern. Reconstruction experts can also recognize flat tire marks made by deflated tires.
The size, shape, and direction of the marks left by vehicle tires can indicate factors such as the rate of speed, the degree of braking applied, and how a driver turned the wheel.
Using “Black Box” Information to Reconstruct a Collision
Many cars on the road have a device known as an Event Data Recorder (EDR), which is something like the infamous “black boxes” used to record crash data on airplanes. EDR devices record a variety of information before, during, and after a collision or other triggering event. However, interpreting the information can be a challenge. Accident reconstruction engineers integrate other evidence with EDR records to produce a comprehensive picture of what occurred in the moments leading up to an accident, as well as during and afterward.
The specific information collected varies according to the manufacturer. Data may include:
- Speed, acceleration, and RPM prior to a crash
- Force of impact (and number if there’s more than one)
- Braking application
- The roll angle of the vehicle
- Use of restraint devices
- Position of front seats and weight of occupants
- Ignition attempts after an accident
- Activation of features such as airbags and automatic collision notification system
While this information can be helpful in reconstructing an accident, privacy concerns have led some jurisdictions to restrict the use of data collected through a vehicle’s EDR.
Accident Reconstruction Experts Look at the Big Picture
Experts in auto accident reconstruction do not make conclusions based solely on one type of evidence such as tire marks or an EDR report. Generally, attorneys will ask them to look at the totality of the evidence to gain a thorough understanding of what occurred.
Depending on the case, they often examine the damage to the vehicles involved, review photographs of the accident scene, consider statements of witnesses, tests, and police reports, and evaluate medical records to see if injuries are consistent with the crash evidence. For instance, in a T-bone accident at a slick intersection, a reconstruction expert could conclude that the at-fault driver applied the brakes but the anti-lock brake system failed and the vehicle was unable to stop in time to avoid the collision.
Car accident reconstruction evidence is one of many tools experienced car crash attorneys use to demonstrate liability. Proving causation allows accident victims to recover compensation to offset a variety of losses, including pain, suffering, and mental anguish. If you or a loved one suffered harm in an accident, the dedicated legal advocates at the Maus Law Firm can help you receive full and fair damages so you can move forward. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation.