Most automobile accidents begin and end in a few seconds. The events happen in such rapid succession that not even surviving victims cannot accurately describe exactly what happened.
In such cases, investigators from law enforcement agencies and attorneys representing victims trying to recover damages must resort to the science of forensic engineering, or, as it is sometimes called, accident reconstruction.
Forensic engineers are trained to use established principles of sciences such as physics, metallurgy, and chemistry to develop a detailed timeline of the events involved in an accident.
The investigator’s first task is to visit the site and make a careful inventory of the location of all physical exhibits, ranging from the involved vehicles to detached parts such as headlights, doors, and wheels. Investigators also note marks made by the vehicles, such as skid marks, gouges in the roadside turf, and damage to roadside signs and fences.
The inventory often includes a video record of the scene using both still cameras and videos. If possible, the investigators will save essential body parts, even entire vehicles.
After completing the inventory, the engineers will return to their laboratory to continue the process of measuring the effects of the accident. Forensic engineers maintain voluminous libraries of reference material concerning the resistance to distortion of commonly used automobile and truck bodies.
All this data is next fed into sophisticated computer programs that can create a visual rendering of the accident. The computer analysis can be shown to a jury at trial or viewed by engineers attempting to improve the safety systems on motor vehicles.
Experienced personal injury attorneys often use accident reconstruction experts to present their cases to juries. A computer reconstruction of an accident can demonstrate how one driver was negligent.