Lawyers like to use accident reconstruction specialists in motorcycle accident claims for one primary reason: You aren’t going to find a more persuasive witness than the laws of physics. And in a best-case scenario, an accident reconstruction specialist for the plaintiff will be able to prove that either (i) the accident was the defendant’s fault, or (ii) for some mysterious reason, the laws of physics failed to operate normally during the accident.
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident claim, that’s pretty much a slam-dunk for your claim. Although not every favorable conclusion reached by an accident reconstruction specialist is as clear-cut as that, given the scientific complexity of many motorcycle accident claims, an expert witness like this might come in handy.
Some Examples of Situations in Which an Accident Reconstruction Specialist Might Be Useful
Suppose, for example, that you slammed into the rear of a truck. Were you following too closely, or did the truck driver stop so suddenly that you couldn’t have avoided the accident? Alternatively, suppose that the defendant’s fault in the accident is clear, but he asserts that the accident was partly your fault because you were speeding at the time of the accident. An accident reconstruction specialist might be able to calculate your speed before you braked.
Who Qualifies as an Accident Reconstruction Specialist?
An accident reconstruction specialist might be someone with an engineering or applied science background, or perhaps a law enforcement official with specialized training. “My uncle Tim who knows all about cars” is not likely to suffice, no matter how skilled he might be. That is, unless he earned formal credentials that can convince the court that he knows what he’s talking about. “Formal credentials” might include an engineering degree, for example, or accreditation form the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction (ACTAR).
A skilled lawyer can help you locate an appropriate accident reconstruction specialist. The three most important factors in selecting an accident reconstruction specialist are:
- Academic credentials;
- Experience in the field; and
- Reputation for ability and integrity.
A deficit in any one of these areas could seriously compromise the evidentiary value of using an accident reconstruction specialist.
The Investigation Stage
Before an accident reconstruction specialist does any brain work or number-crunching, he will investigate the accident to gather as much relevant information as possible. His activities might include:
- Visiting the scene of the accident;
- Taking note of nearby road signs and signals to identify any confusion or visibility issues;
- Inspecting any vehicle damage;
- Reviewing medical records;
- Examining the police report;
- Watching surveillance footage of the accident, if any exists;
- Interviewing witnesses;
- Examining photographs taken after the accident;
- Studying debris, skid marks, etc.; and
- Retrieving data from a truck’s “black box” – which works like a simplified version of a black box on a plane.
The Analysis Stage
Once the accident reconstruction specialist has gathered the necessary data, he will analyze it thoroughly and create various scenarios of how the accident occurred. He may also use complex software programs to re-enact the crash and to determine which scenario is most likely – in light of the evidence. For example, he might:
- Evaluate the physics of the accident scene by, for example, calculating the speed of the vehicles and their relative positions at different moments during the accident sequence. This could be done by analyzing skid marks, vehicle weight, and friction.
- Determine impact angles based on damage to the vehicles.
- Measure post-impact distances traveled by the vehicles and passengers involved.
- Determine the exact circumstances of the accident and how the injuries occurred.
An accident reconstruction specialist may perform numerous other calculations and reach other conclusions, as necessary, under the particular circumstances.
The Final Report
A final report issued by an accident reconstruction specialist is an important piece of evidence, although its utility is limited by his own credibility. The report may include:
- A risk analysis, which might help the court to determine whether a given action taken by a driver constituted negligence (remember, however, that the question of negligence is primarily a legal question, not a scientific question);
- A review of driving errors committed by the defendant;
- A description of the most likely accident scenarios, along with an estimation of the likelihood of each scenario;
- An identification of ways in which the accident could have been avoided or rendered less serious at various stages in the accident sequence;
- A review of regulatory compliance and how it might have affected the accident – if regulatory compliance issues are involved (if poor vehicle maintenance is an issue in the case, for example, or if the defendant was driving on a commercial license);
- A computer-aided simulation of the crash (using diagrams or 3D animation);
- A passenger injury analysis based on the movement of the occupants of the vehicle during the accident; and
- Other issues that may be relevant in a particular case.
Accident reconstruction specialists are considered expert witnesses, and they are usually paid for their services; in fact, they may even earn a full-time living that way. Although you can be almost certain that the opposing party’s lawyer will cross-examine your accident reconstruction specialist and bring to the court’s attention the fact that he is being paid for his services, this does not normally present a serious problem in either civil lawsuits or settlement negotiations.
Nevertheless, many trials boil down to a “battle of the experts” in which both sides retain accident reconstruction specialists who reach opposite conclusions. In that situation, the case could come down to which side’s accident reconstruction specialist delivered the most persuasive testimony or possessed the most impressive set of credentials.
Contact Us Today
If you were hurt in a motorcycle accident that you suspect might have been the fault of someone else (whether another driver, a product manufacturer or a third party), you need to get started pursuing your claim, right away. Contact E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy, immediately, either by reaching out to us online or by calling our Albany office to schedule a free case evaluation. We also maintain offices in Troy, Saratoga and Latham.