Traffic accidents are the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about. We go about our daily lives without thinking for one moment about what might happen if we are involved in a serious crash, because we always believe that our vehicle will not be the one that is being craned out of a deep ravine, or loaded onto a flatbed truck in a heap of twisted metal. Unfortunately, statistics suggest it is more likely than not that some who read this will be involved in a serious accident at some time in their life. Further, in our increasingly litigious culture, there is exists a very real potential that we will become involved as plaintiffs or defendants in a civil or criminal action resulting from a car accident. When this happens, you should hire the best attorney you can afford, and preserve as much evidence as you can. Every driver should understand a little about what makes up a typical accident study, if only to protect his or her own interests in the aftermath of a terrible collision. car accident attorney los angeles
Generally speaking, accident reconstructionists are professional experts and consultants who are usually retained by legal advocates. We are oftentimes engineers, physicists, ex-police officers, or highway safety professionals, but we are specialized by experience and training in the analysis of traffic collisions. Though we usually work for the legal advocates defending or prosecuting a particular case, we are independent of any particular “side” in a legal action. The story of each accident study is different, but the efforts accident reconstructionists travel along well-worn paths to eventually arrive at our expert opinions.
At the first consultation with a potential client we may reject a case because it does not appear that we can offer any help (e.g. their client is clearly at fault, there is no legitimate accident to reconstruct, the deadline is too soon, etc.). Sometimes initial contact is made at the accident location so that the issues and circumstances can be better understood and an informed decision can be made as to whether or not we should become involved. Accident reconstructionists try to avoid being compelled to render opinions contrary to our client’s case.
Determine the facts. Usually the first evidentiary item found in a typical file is the traffic collision report (TCR), as they are called in California; elsewhere they have other names. This documents the police investigation into the accident and usually provides most of the factual information necessary to conduct an analysis. Although some accidents are more thoroughly investigated by law enforcement than others, most reports identify the parties and their vehicles, provide witness statements and contact information, offer some description of the accident scene as it was found by the investigating officer, and may contain some measurements and/or diagrams that describe the locations of various items of physical evidence. This evidence might include any tire marks, gouges, dirt tracks, debris, and the vehicles’ points of rest. Hopefully the investigation includes photographs of the scene, which are critical to any traffic collision report. It seems that police officers do not always think so because only about 50% of the crashes I investigate include scene photographs, and less than half of those cases include useful photographs because of the low priority most agencies put on accident investigation training. This is a terrible shame because peoples’ memories fade with time, but photographs can preserve evidence that was not collected at the scene of the crash or memorialize temporary conditions that no longer exist.
If you are ever involved in a traffic accident, the best advice I can offer is that you do not provide a statement to the police at the scene. This may seem a little strange coming from a person who relies heavily on the information presented in the police report, but it is in your own best interest to provide a written statement at a later time. Immediately following an accident, emotions are high and a person might say inaccurate things because they feel guilty or feel bad for another party who was hurt. I have never read a statement that did anything to help the person making it, but I have read hundreds that led to their arrest. I suggest a written statement because police officers are humans who cannot be expected to paraphrase your statement perfectly. Any differences between your statement and what eventually is recorded in the report can completely change the meaning of what you said. Once the officer has filed his report, the statement cannot be taken back so choose your words very carefully.