With around 50 million people being injured in traffic collisions every year, an Accident Investigation Expert Witness and an Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness are busy people.
Accidents happen all the time. It’s estimated that a worker is hurt in the workplace every seven seconds.
All too often, these accidents lead to court cases. This is where expert witnesses come into the picture.
The job of accident investigators and accident reconstruction experts is to shed light on the causes of an accident. They examine all the circumstances and offer an expert opinion on what caused the accident.
First, if you have been involved in an accident that led to injury or property damage, you need to find the right expert to help.
The circumstances of the accident will determine whether you need to hire an investigator or an expert in reconstructing accidents.
So what is the difference between these experts?
Firstly, an Accident Investigation Expert Witness will find witnesses.
They will also investigate the accident scene and give their expert opinion on what caused the accident. For example, if it is a road traffic accident, they will examine skid marks and record what they find at the scene.
Through their investigations, they will look at all the factors involved.
The expert will then offer their thoughts on what caused the accident.
Finally, they will say how and why the accident happened. And, most importantly, who was to blame.
They can only do this by gathering and considering all the relevant facts.
Next, the expert will interview everyone involved in the accident. So too, will any independent witnesses. This process is the fact-finding stage of their investigation.
Anyone with direct or indirect involvement will be questioned. This includes passers-by or other road users who happened to witness the accident.
Once the facts have been established, the expert can then build a picture of what happened.
Finally, the expert will piece together what occurred before, during, and after the accident.
Only then will the expert be prepared to give their thoughts on the accident. The expert will discuss the possible scenarios and pinpoint which is the most probable.
They will also say which accounts of the accident are not consistent with the apparent facts.
The expert’s final verdict on the cause of the accident considers the accounts of those involved and the physical evidence obtained at the scene.
The expert will also interview anyone who comes forward as a witness after the accident.
The expert will also dig deeper into the accident. They will do so by looking into the past histories of those directly involved in the accident. In particular, they will be searching to see if the accident is a one-off incident or part of an ongoing pattern of behavior.
Typically, though, the expert is weighing up conflicting accounts from the parties involved in the accident.
This is why it is crucial to hire an expert with a proven track record and expertise in the relevant type of accident. For example, some may specialize in accidents involving pedestrians. Others may have a strong history of success in accidents involving public transport.
So how does the Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness differ?
The main difference is that this type of expert goes a step further by precisely reconstructing the accident. But, like their counterparts, they too start with the evidence at the scene and from those involved.
They take into consideration all the factors that influenced the accident. Then, they look in turn at every element that contributed.
Through this meticulous research, they can better understand the underlying causes of the accident.
They can then use all the evidence they have gathered to recreate a timeline. This spells out the sequence of events surrounding the accident.
When they have done this, the expert witness can clearly explain what happened and why to the court.
Starting an investigation will depend entirely on the type of accident in question. For example, if an incident involves a duty of care, the expert will consider whether negligence contributed.
If the incident were a road traffic accident, the reconstruction expert would look at a range of factors. These factors could include vehicle speeds, weather and road conditions, and the presence of hazards.
Other accidents could include injuries to pedestrians or cyclists caused by cars, trucks, or other vehicles.
The more factors coming into play, the longer the expert will need to gather evidence and assess what happened. Only then can they arrive at a reliable timeline for the event.
Expert witnesses that reconstruct accidents will typically have a solid background in investigations. They will usually employ a variety of techniques to deduce what occurred and why.
The basic facts of the claim will determine how the expert proceeds. The scope of their investigation will look at all the aspects from weather to human factors.
Reconstruction of an accident, therefore, involves several methods. These range from tape measures to cutting-edge computer software to help determine what influences were in play.
Professionals, therefore, use all the tools available to reconstruct the details of the accident.
As well as modern technology, the reconstruction expert witness will apply their knowledge and well-honed skills. They will test various theories using the facts.
Reconstruction is, therefore, useful to resolve a range of contributory factors, such as the speed of each vehicle involved. It will also examine each driver’s visibility, behavior, and the severity of the resulting impact.
The more questions a reconstruction expert can answer, the more accurate a picture they can present in court. And ultimately, who should be held accountable.
It’s important to note that a reconstruction expert does not work in isolation. Experts will interview and work with law enforcement to help build their scientific analysis.
Establishing the facts will generally work backward from the point of impact and the damage resulting from the accident.
This evidence-gathering process helps the experts build an easily understandable timeline.
This timeline shows what happened and when and connects each driver to particular points on the timeline.
They will also offer their expert opinion on what unfolded. Experts in accident reconstruction can be hired by the defense, the prosecution, or an insurance company.
Normally, expert witnesses get paid via a retention contract. As well as providing a detailed report reconstructing the accident, the expert may also be asked to present their findings in court.