Many media reports of traffic accidents in Louisiana and elsewhere end with the sentence, “The investigation of the accident is continuing.” What does this sentence mean? How can an accident be investigated after the vehicles and crash debris have been removed from the scene? The answer lies in understanding the science of accident reconstruction.
The steps in reconstructing an accident
No one can “reconstruct” an accident, but by applying careful data gathering and the sciences of chemistry and physics, specially trained engineers can describe the events of the accident in quantitative terms. These quantitative terms can help engineers list the various events that caused the accident.
The first step is gathering data from the scene of the accidents. Reconstruction experts will take extensive photographs of the scene to document the position of the vehicles and accident debris after they have come to rest. Skid marks and the relative positions of the vehicles will be carefully measured. In some cases, the vehicles themselves will be moved to a garage or other space that will also careful examination of the damage caused by the collision.
The data gathered from these examinations is often loaded into computer aided design (CAD) software. Such software can produce accurate drawings of the respective positions of the vehicles before, during and after the accident. The engineers may check charts that list the degree to which a vehicle may resist or allow impact damage. If mechanical failure is suspected, the reconstruction engineer will carefully examine the parts in question. In some cases, the computer software is used to prepare a computer simulation of the accident.
How is the reconstruction information used?
Many accident reconstructions are performed by teams of police officers who have received special training for the job. Private reconstruction specialists are available to assist attorneys and others in understanding an accident and presenting expert testimony in court. Experienced accident attorneys know that a competent accident reconstruction report can be almost as valuable as eyewitness testimony in describing and explaining how an accident happened and who is at fault.