Newspaper reports of car accidents in Berks County and elsewhere frequently close with the statement that the cause of the accident is either unknown or under investigation. A branch of forensic engineering called "accident reconstruction" has a number of tools to answer this question even after accident debris has been cleared away. This post will describe some of those tools and the methods used by forensic engineers in the science of crash reconstruction.
Accident investigators begin by documenting the scene. This phase consists of making careful measurements of all relevant dimensions, including marks on the vehicles, the length of skid marks, the distance the vehicles traveled after impact, and similar information. Investigators use both still and video cameras to thoroughly record the location of all involved vehicles, bodies of victims and persons who were thrown from the vehicles. If a truck is involved, investigators will check to see whether cargo or other contents was scattered by the accident. Investigators will also carefully measure and record the damage to each of the vehicles. If a mechanical failure is suspected as the cause, all pertinent mechanical systems and component parts will be removed for further inspection and analysis.
Once all the information is collected, the investigators begin the process of auto accident reconstruction. The pre- and post-impact directions of travel are calculated, as well as the vehicles' speeds and relative positions during the accident itself. Engineers use published data regarding the weight and construction of the involved vehicles. The data are analyzed according to the applicable laws of physics. Forensic engineers have recently begun using computer programs that do the vital but tedious task of performing the necessary calculations. In some cases, the engineers will perform physical tests or simulations to gather more data. When all of the data have been analyzed, the accident reconstruction engineer can determined the exact sequence of events from moments before the initial impact to the final moment when all vehicles have stopped moving.
The attorneys at Leisawitz Heller in Reading have long experience in using accident reconstruction specialists to analyze the sequence of events in the accident, to identify potential liability, and to maximize the likelihood of recovering compensation for their clients.
Source: CrashForensics.com, "Motor Vehicle Crash Investigation and Reconstruction," John C. Glennon, Jr., BSAT, accessed on April 3, 2017