A lawyer often hires an accident reconstructionist to identify what actually happened at the accident, especially when there are conflicting versions or confusion about what happened. Accidents often happen too quickly for eyewitnesses to see exactly what happened. The resulting eyewitness reports may be inaccurate, confused, or misleading, but skid marks never lie.
What does an accident reconstructionist do?
An accident reconstruction identifies the sequence of events before, during, and after an accident happens. Vehicle speeds, directions, and points of impact will be reconstructed from the available evidence.
This reconstruction will determine the roles and conditions of the drivers and vehicles involved, including any driver error. It will also identify the roles of the road, the local lighting, the traffic, and any relevant environmental conditions.
This kind of reconstruction requires a great deal of evidence. Much of the evidence for an accident reconstruction is collected at the scene, but some evidence is compiled afterwards as well.
= At the scene =
Evidence gathered at the scene includes skid marks, road surface, distances, and all relevant signs and signals in the vicinity. When compared with the condition of the tires and road, skid marks can determine the speeds that vehicles were going within a couple of miles per hour. They also determine when the brakes were applied to attempt to avoid an accident, which can give valuable information about when obstacles were seen and driver reaction speed.
The road condition is inspected carefully by the accident reconstructionist. This may include factors such as road composition (asphalt, tarmac, concrete, gravel), how well the road was maintained, degree of snow or leaf cover or other debris or spills, and whether it was wet, dry, or icy. Any nearby potholes will be identified, measured, and photographed.
Accident reconstruction evidence also includes inspection and photographs of the surrounding environment, including elements such as buildings, trees, or poles that may have obstructed vision or otherwise played a role in the accident.
= Evidence compiled afterwards =
The accident reconstructionist will not gather first-hand reports himself. Instead, he will review all police, victim, and eyewitness reports collected by the police and other court investigators.
Weather conditions at the time of the accident may be gathered at the scene, from previous reports, or from a weather record. Police reports should also have a record of the road conditions.
A police accident reconstructionist will examine all involved vehicles before they are removed from the scene, but independent accident reconstructionists may have to examine the vehicles afterwards. Similarly, an independent accident reconstructionist will have to extrapolate the roles of anyone or anything which may have been a factor in the accident but which was not directly involved and is no longer present at the scene of the accident.
Finally, the accident reconstructionist will look at the vehicle’s maintenance history, including any vehicle problems which may have been a factor in the accident. If there have been any unaddressed safety recalls, the accident reconstructionist will take those into account as well.
When do lawyers hire accident reconstructionists?
Accident reconstructions are always part of criminal cases causing serious injury. A defense lawyer may choose to hire an accident reconstructionist to support your defense against lesser criminal charges. Sometimes a lawyer may hire an accident reconstructionist independently, by way of getting a second opinion.
Otherwise, a lawyer is most likely to hire an accident reconstructionst when insurance or other settlement is under dispute. Insurance settlements often depend upon clearly identifying fault, and fault is usually best clearly identified through accident reconstruction. Thus, the accident reconstruction will assist you in getting you the best possible settlement for your case.
In the adversarial system, a tort defense lawyer will not hire an accident reconstructionst when the findings will not help his case. However, in that case, the opposing lawyer is likely to do so instead.