Reconstructing Truck Accidents — Physically Documenting the Accident Scene

Home » Reconstructing Truck Accidents — Physically Documenting the Accident Scene
August 31, 2022
Edward Smith

Measuring and Mapping the Site are Crucial to Reconstructing Truck Accidents 

Large commercial vehicles like tractor-trailer rigs behave much differently in accidents than smaller vehicles like passenger cars do.  A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh twenty times as much as the typical passenger vehicle, and it is correspondingly much harder to slow, stop, or maneuver, especially when moving at highway speeds.  Reconstructing truck accidents often involves detailed physical and mechanical analysis of how the truck moved before impact, at the point of impact, and post-impact until it came to a rest. Combined with any evidence of mechanical defects in the truck and/or problems or errors by the driver, measuring and mapping the accident site is key to reconstructing truck accidents to determine how and why they happened, which is equally important to proving liability in a personal injury claim or lawsuit.  An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to use this mapping evidence — often in conjunction with accident reconstruction expert witnesses — to successfully conclude claims and litigation for their clients. 

Tools For Mapping the Accident Site 

Reconstructing truck accidents — more so than reconstructing the typical passenger vehicle accident — often requires a more detailed and accurate understanding of the physical layout of the accident location itself and the placement of the vehicles and pieces of physical evidence within that site. 

The range of tools used by law enforcement officers in their investigations will vary widely based upon the resources available to the officers and the perceived seriousness of the accident — fatal accidents, multiple-vehicle accidents with major damage, and accidents involving significant road closures will often get much more attention and resources devoted their investigation than will minor accidents. 

A typical, “standard” traffic collision report may involve nothing more elaborate than a description of the site and a hand-drawn sketch from the investigating officer.  More complete and detailed collision reports may involve the use of “roll-a-tape” measuring devices to more accurately measure the site dimensions and vehicle locations and plot them on an accurate scale drawing of the site.  The most thorough collision reports that may be prepared by specialist law enforcement accident investigation teams are likely to use surveying equipment and GPS locator tools to measure the accident site, with that data being input to “computer assisted design” or “CAD” software to produce detailed, accurate, scalable maps of the site.  The most modern measuring equipment includes devices called “total stations” and laser scanners.  These devices sweep the entire accident site area with either infrared beams or laser beams and record the location and distances of objects reflecting those beams — they produce a great volume of very accurate positional data that can be translated by computer into extremely accurate site maps.

Reconstructing Truck Accidents with Expert Witnesses 

Sometimes, the level of detail of site mapping and investigation by law enforcement may be insufficient to provide enough details for precisely reconstructing truck accidents — in this instance, an experienced personal injury lawyer will understand the importance of dispatching skilled investigators to the scene to map the site.  They will typically use the more advanced measurement and mapping technology described above to produce information used by accident reconstruction experts to explain the “how’s and why’s” of the truck accident occurrence. 

In addition to simply mapping the location of the accident, a professional investigator will usually take extensive still photography of the site from various angles, as well as photographs of any potential physical evidence that may remain observable.  They will often take both still photos and videos from the perspective of vehicle drivers on the roadway, and they will do so at the particular time of day or night that the accident occurred in order to observe and understand lighting conditions. 

Accident reconstruction experts — who may perform the site investigations themselves and/or rely upon evidence produced by other professional investigators — can then take this data, along with other evidence such as vehicle damage reports and witnesses’ statements, to analyze and explain on the basis of physics and vehicle mechanics just how the accident occurred.  Reconstructing truck accidents through the use of accident reconstruction expert reports and testimony is often a crucial step in the litigation of major truck accident cases in order to persuade an insurance adjustor to agree to a reasonable settlement or to persuade a jury to award proper compensation to an accident victim. 

View this video from Motor Week Magazine about the accident reconstruction profession: 

California Truck Accident Attorney

Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I’m a Truck Accident Attorney.  Skilled personal injury lawyers who have handled numerous truck accident cases realize the importance of promptly and accurately investigating, mapping, and analyzing the layout of the accident site in order to develop a deeper understanding of how the accident happened and whether or not expert witnesses like an accident reconstructionist will be need to support a successful case.  If you or a family member has sustained a serious injury due to negligence of a truck driver or other commercial vehicle operator, please contact us today at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

You can read our client reviews on Google, Yelp, and Avvo and case histories of our past truck accident verdicts and settlements.

Image by larrybalian from Pixabay

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