Accident Reconstruction, Why?


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Need an Accident “Reconstructionist”?  Why?


So you have a vehicle accident claim to process and you are thinking about hiring an Accident Reconstructionist.  The first question you should ask is:  Why?  What do you need reconstructed?

Take a good look at the information you have regarding a claim. This should include a police report that contains a scene diagram and eyewitness accounts. Participants may have been cited or arrested. Motorcycles or pedestrians may have been involved.   The police may have conclusions about speeds. The photos of the vehicles will show damage and the emergency room intake records and discharge summary will describe injuries.


With this available information, what is your goal in hiring someone to reconstruct the incident? What’s the missing piece that spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars is going to provide you?  The answer is probably contingent on the size of the claim and the exposure.


Do you simply need someone to document the scene and condition of the vehicle(s)?


Do you need a report simply because you need to exercise due diligence to complete the file?


If all collisions were the same, this may be an easy answer. So, then, let’s look at levels of expertise and your bang for your buck.


The range of persons providing accident reconstruction is wide. At the very basic level there are those who purchase a reconstruction software package that can provide speeds based on measurements, etc., but the user knows little about physics and (for example) doesn’t realize that the roadway coefficient of friction is different between wet and dry surfaces. Their ability to defend their results may be limited. If you confine their services to basic information gathering, they should be adequate.


At the next level, a “recon” may have reconstruction training, can interpret skid marks (if they see them because ABS does not always leave skid marks), understands what vehicle crush means and can explain why their software package works as it does. They may be unable to help if multiple vehicles are involved or if the dynamics become complicated. This type of reconstructionist is common and may be perfectly fine in a simple collision.


Finally, there are people with degrees in engineering or physics who can interpret nuances from incident information, factor in complex vehicle motions and utilize driver perception and reaction times when it matters, and can substantiate their methodology. These individuals can assist when it gets “messy” and there are multiple events and people are seriously injured or killed. The analysis process is complicated and you can expect that whoever you hire is going to be challenged. This leads to another decision maker: do you anticipate litigation from your claim and is your reconstructionist experienced with these challenges?


Hiring a reconstructionist should involve critical thought that includes the intended purpose, the scope, expected outcome and future use of the information for which you are about to pay