One of the most common statements in a media report on a motor vehicle accident is “the accident is still being investigated.” This statement does not mean that police officers remain on the scene gathering evidence and deducing its meaning. Instead, it means that trained officers are evaluating evidence gathered at the scene in the first minutes after the crash. In this portion of the investigation, trained forensic scientists are attempting to use available evidence to understand and reconstruct the sequence of events that led to the accident. In other words, they are “reconstructing” the accident.
The first steps
The first steps taken by accident investigators is a careful recording of the crash scene. This step involves measuring the physical dimensions of the crash, including the length of skid parks, the final position of the vehicles, and the location of the vehicles and any parts of the vehicles shaken loose by the impact of the accident. The location of victims is also carefully noted.
Work in the laboratory
This information gathered from the accident scene is taken to the investigator’s laboratory for careful evaluation in comparison with known physical properties of the types of vehicles involved in the accident. Investigators have access to many volumes containing information about the ability of various vehicles to withstand the impacts of an accident. The laws of physics also play an important role in understanding how and why the vehicles collided.
Presentation of findings
After the analysis it completed, the investigators prepare a report about the sequence of events that contributed to the accident. If the case is headed for trial (either a criminal or civil trial), the investigators may prepare an animation of the accident showing the location and direction of travel of each vehicle.
Most experienced trial attorneys will resort to the skills of experienced accident investigators to support their case. Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in a complex traffic accident may wish to consult a knowledgeable attorney with experience in traffic cases. A skilled attorney can provide a useful evaluation of the evidence and an opinion about the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income, future disability, and pain and suffering.