When Do You Call an Accident Reconstructionist?

Let me start off by saying I’m generally skeptical of the benefits of an accident reconstructionist as an expert witness in most car accident cases.shutterstock_252879895

Why?  Generally, I think in most liability dispute cases, jurors feel like they have all the information to make the call.  Jurors think they understand basis physics and who is telling the truth and generally don’t look for help from an accident reconstructionist.  We had a young lawyer trying his first case against a big law firm in a liability dispute case.  The defendants hired one of the best accident reconstructionists in Maryland.  Our client barely spoke English.  We did not bring an expert.  But we won, because the jury heard the facts and believed our client.

We hire accident reconstructionist in the fast majority of our serious injury and wrongful death cases.  One reason is that you don’t know whether you need an expert, until you have gotten to the courthouse steps.  But, even more importantly, they can help you gather and sort through evidence to put you in the best position to win your case and maximize the value of your claim.

What is Accident Reconstruction?

Accident reconstruction is the scientific process of analyzing and making conclusions about the cause of an accident. It is based on the use of technology, physics, and mathematics to investigate how a crash happened. It is a technique commonly employed by police departments and prosecutors to figure out who is at fault for a crash. But accident reconstructionists can also be hired to serve as investigators and expert witnesses in private car accident investigations.

An accident reconstructionist is a detective of sorts. They are tasked with determining what happened before, during, and after a collision. And they accomplish this by gathering evidence from the scene of the accident that allows them to make scientific conclusions. These investigations are intensive, encompassing more than just a cursory glance at the vehicles in question.

Accident reconstruction requires consideration of multiple factors such as: the point of impact; the vehicles’ final resting position; skid marks, gouge marks, and other identifiers. These data points are then inputted into computer software, which will often create a computer-rendered recreation of the crash. From this, an accident reconstructionist can make inferences and conclusions about the cause of an accident.

Why Would I Need An Accident Reconstructionist?

Car accidents are usually isolated events that happen within a frame of a few seconds. It is incredibly difficult for a witness to give an accurate statement on what happens in that time frame.  For example, you know when you are watching a Ravens game and you see a close play live?  It is impossible to tell exactly what happened because everything happened so quickly.  That is basically what tends to happen at accident scenes. So think of an accident reconstruction investigation as the slow-motion replay.  (Actually, it is not that at all.  But you get the idea.)

With that in mind, you really only need a car accident reconstructionist when liability is at issue in a car accident case. The vast majority of car accidents are cut and dry when it comes to liability. X turned in front of Y. Y rear-end X because he was on his cell phone. In these cases, you do not need an accident reconstructionist to give you a slo-mo replay, because it is obvious who is at fault. To continue with the football analogy, you do not really see a lot of slo-mo replays on 3 yard runs up the middle. The spectators get the point, just from watching live.

However, liability is not always clear.  Meaning parties will have to rely on the testimony of witnesses to support their claim that the other party was at fault. Witness testimony is shaky though. To illustrate, I implore you to recount what you had for lunch three days ago. Just imagine asking a total stranger to remember what they saw at an accident scene one year ago. With that being the case, hiring an accident reconstructionist inserts some objectivity into the process. Accident reconstruction relies on data points, not memory. Plus, an accident reconstructionist can testify as an expert witness, which allows them to give an opinion as to why the accident happened. So relying on a reconstructionist can help supplement and solidify eyewitness testimony.

I certainly do not think you need an accident reconstructionist in every case.  But there are some cases where you would be very foolish to proceed without one.

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