Determining Liability Through Accident Reconstruction

Home » Determining Liability Through Accident Reconstruction
September 23, 2017
Edward Smith


Determining Liability Through Accident Reconstruction

In California, knowing why an accident happened and whether negligence was involved is a vital part of the legal process. Today, determining the extent of negligence is aided by scientific measures that pinpoint the reason a crash happened.

What Is Accident Reconstruction?

Accident reconstruction is a way of determining liability in an accident. Reconstructionists use scientific, often computerized, methods to do this. The police generally do an accident investigation to see if illegal acts were causative factors such as drug or alcohol use, speeding, or other roadway violations. Accident reconstructionists analyze the accident to see who was at fault, proving liability.

Who Does It?

Independent accident reconstruction is typically done by individuals with several different backgrounds. Some are former police investigators who have retired from active police work, and others are engineers who have specialized in accident forensics.

Accident Site Evaluation

Accident investigators take photos and measure evidential data found at the scene. For instance, the presence of skid marks, yaw and scuff marks as well as gouge marks are found on the pavement. The point at which the collision impact occurred and where the vehicle was positioned after the crash are other important factors. Using measurements of this telltale data, a computerized recreation of the accident can be generated.

Vehicle Inspection

Each vehicle is also inspected for evidence signaling the damage the vehicles sustained. In this part of the investigation, actual damage to the vehicles is determined along with the precise point of impact. The vehicle’s brakes, tires, steering, lights and suspension are also evaluated to see what part they may have played in the accident. For instance, worn tires or unmaintained brakes may be determined to be a causative factor.

Black Box Data

The event data recorder, commonly know as a black box, records both occupant information and vehicle data immediately before and after a crash beginning five to 10 seconds before the collision. Such things as vehicle dynamics before the crash and actions by the driver during this interlude are recorded as is deployment of restraints and their usage. Accident reconstructionists may use this data to augment information they have regarding speed, brake employment, or sharp turns made before impact or mechanical malfunction.

Reconstructing the Accident

Once the initial investigation is finished, reconstructionists can use the data to provide information about where each vehicle in the crash was at different points in the accident sequence. Methods of reconstruction may differ according to the type of accident. For example, vehicles that skidded before impact and slid before stopping use a method that incorporates the weights of the vehicles and the collision angle as well as their final deposition. An example of this would be two vehicles traveling in two opposite directions, one east and one north. After the collision, the vehicles end up in a northeast location. By using the weight of each vehicle and the distance each traveled in one of the two directions, the reconstructionist can determine the collision speed. This can be used to calculate the speed prior to the application of the brakes.

Determining Negligence

As a fault or tort state, California insurance companies use this information to decide on whether or not the damages will be paid. Since California is also a comparative negligence state, the degree to which a driver is negligent is important. Let’s say that both drivers in a two-vehicle accident are partially responsible for the crash. By using crash data, the percentage of liability can be calculated. If driver one was responsible for 40 percent of the damage, he or she would still be able to collect compensation for the remaining 60 percent.

Related Articles by Fresno Car Accident Lawyer Ed Smith

Fresno Car Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno car accident lawyer. Proving liability after an accident is essential to making sure adequate compensation is achieved. If you have been hurt by a negligent driver in a car or truck accident, or if a member of your family has been killed in an accident, please call me at (559) 377-7676. My advice is friendly and free. Outside the area code, please dial (800) 404-5400.

Since 1982, I have helped many California residents, including those who reside in Fresno and the surrounding area, obtain just compensation for their personal injuries and wrongful death cases.

After an accident, you want to know about an attorney’s practice and its success rate before you ask for their legal assistance. My  Past Settlements and Verdicts page contains information about the way I resolved past cases. In addition, comments by past clients are available at Google, Yelp and Avvo, a legal site, provides both peer and client comments on my practice.

I am a California member of the Million Dollar Advocates. This group only permits entrance to trial lawyers who have won verdicts and/or settlements of $1 million or more for clients.

I founded and own I provide information on many personal injury topics.

Photo Attribution:

:cd [cs 784] cv