Motor Vehicle Accident Analysis and Consulting

Accident analysis or accident reconstruction is an engineering field which applies engineering principles to determine how and why an accident happened. Motor vehicle accident reconstruction is specifically focused on automobile crashes. Our approach to motor vehicle accident reconstruction consists of three primary steps: evidence preservation, analysis, and consulting.      

Evidence Preservation

The first step in the analysis of a motor vehicle accident is collecting data. In most serious accidents, the responding law enforcement agency will collect driver and vehicle information, take statements, write reports, photograph the scene and more. Generally, as the severity of the accident increases, the investigation efforts become more thorough. We will request all investigative materials from all agencies involved to begin our evidence collection process. Although the law enforcement materials provide useful information, we always prefer to perform our own accident site and vehicle inspections.

The goal of our accident site inspections is to visually inspect, photograph and survey the roadway. The visual inspection will help to locate physical evidence, determine the sightlines and visibility of the drivers, and identify other factors that may have contributed to the crash. Generally, the accident site is photographed on foot to demonstrate the driver’s perspectives and to document the site for future analysis. Typically, we will deploy our UAS to aerial map the site to produce a scaled aerial image from which we will base our engineering drawing. Please see our Aerial Mapping page to learn more.

 

The goal of our vehicle inspections is to visually inspect, photograph, measure damage and download any electronic data contained within the vehicle’s computers. Our visual inspection of the vehicles helps us determine the impact location and orientation, the integrity of the vehicle’s electrical and mechanical components, and more. Our photography will capture the vehicle from all angles to demonstrate the overall condition of the vehicle. The visual inspection helps us to focus our detail photography on the areas that must be preserved with photographs. We also utilize 3D laser scanning to precisely measure the entire vehicle. This preserves the dimensions and shape of the vehicle virtually. Please see our 3D Laser Scanning page to learn more. Finally, and potentially most importantly, we will attempt to download any and all electronic data contained within the vehicle’s computers. Event data recorders, or EDRs, have been adopted by virtually all automotive companies and have been around since the mid-1990s. Often, the law enforcement agencies do not download the EDR data, which provides invaluable vehicle information before, during and after the impact.

Accident Analysis

The analysis step begins with the review of all available information, including all law enforcement materials, deposition transcripts, witness statements, crash test reports, published studies, our inspection materials and more. The information and evidence available are the pieces to the puzzle and the analysis is the process of solving the puzzle. Typically, an accident reconstruction engineer will work backwards to reconstruct the accident.

The scale accident site drawing, created using the data collected at the accident site inspection, is generally the backbone of any crash analysis. The scale drawing allows the engineer to identify key locations on the accident site, such as the locations of the vehicles’ final rest positions, impact positions and their pre-impact paths. Then speed of the vehicles can be determined using several different engineering methods. With all of this information known, the accident can be virtually animated to demonstrate the relative movements of the vehicles before, during and after the crash. Our analyses range from vehicle dynamics simulations to speed determination from surveillance video. We have performed many different types of analyses, some of which are listed to the right.

Areas of Expertise / Services:

Automobile and motorcycle accident analysis

Vehicle speed analysis 

Impact location analysis 

Time-distance avoidance analysis

Visibility analysis

Restraint system (seat belt & airbag) analysis

Impact severity analysis

Lighting analysis

Surveillance / dash cam video analysis

"Who was driving" multi-occupant ejection analysis 

Evidence preservation via accident site and vehicle inspections

"Black box" Crash Data Retrieval (CDR)

Heavy Vehicle Event Data Recorder (EDR) retrieval

Accident simulation, animation & presentation

Aerial photography

Consulting

Our primary job as consulting engineers is to answer questions about accidents using engineering principles. Therefore, following our analysis the final step in the process is reporting our findings. This can take the form of a verbal report, written report, expert testimony, or a combination thereof. We have the capability to produce compelling exhibits to help visualize the events of the accident, complex engineering analyses and more for use during a jury trial. See our animations page to view some examples of our crash animations.   

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