When you hear the term “incident reconstruction,” you might think of motor vehicle collisions, and rightly so—car crashes are certainly the most common type of incident to be reconstructed. Times are changing, though. With recent advancements in modern technology, a wider variety of incidents can be more thoroughly investigated and understood. Essentially, a detailed forensic analysis can be performed for any incident that involves an object or objects in motion.
During a motor vehicle collision, objects with mass and velocity come into contact with each other, often resulting in property damage and physical injury. The application of physical sciences like mathematics and physics can be easily understood. However, the same theories can be applied to workplace accidents, slips and falls, and other non-collision related incidents.
At a construction site, a worker falls some distance and strikes an immobile object. The same methods used to reconstruct an accident where a motor vehicle strikes a stationary entity can be applied to the construction site accident. The following critical questions should be verified:
- How far did the worker fall?
- What was the speed of the fall?
- What forces were involved?
- What are the expected injuries?
- What was the cause of the incident?
When used in conjunction with a thorough and detailed investigation of an incident, a reconstruction can be extremely instrumental in determining causation and preventing future incidents. A properly conducted investigation can also:
- Prove or disprove a plaintiff’s claims
- Prove or disprove a defendant’s claims
- Corroborate statements of witnesses
- Corroborate medical opinions regarding injuries
- Establish a clear sequence of events
WHAT IS INCIDENT RECONSTRUCTION?
The term “accident” is often used when referring to an unplanned, unavoidable, and unexpected event. Whether they involve a motor vehicle, or occur at a workplace or on private property, nearly all fatalities and injuries are preventable; therefore, using the term “incident” investigation is preferred.
Incident reconstruction is conducted to gain explicit knowledge of the series of events that surround an incident using deductive and inductive reasoning, physical evidence, scientific methods, and their interrelationships. A properly conducted incident reconstruction includes the systematic collection, preservation, and evaluation of all available physical evidence, statements of the involved parties, and witness statements, to establish a sequence of events and the order in which they (allegedly) occurred. Perhaps more importantly, a reconstruction can help prove what is unlikely to have occurred.
The most common types of incidents that can be reconstructed are transportation incidents, premises incidents, and product incidents.
Transportation incidents are easily the most well known and recognizable type of incident to be reconstructed. The most common types of transportation incidents involve the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Large commercial vehicle accidents
- Transit vehicle accidents
Premises incidents occur regularly. The most common types of premises incidents involve the following:
- Slips and falls
- Crime scenes
- Accidents on private property
- Accidents on public property
- Construction site accidents
- Workplace accidents
Product incidents are also very common occurrences. The most common types of product incidents involve accidents due to the following:
- Product failure
- Product design
- Process failure
- Mechanical failure
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Precision hardware and software can be utilized to reconstruct a wider range of incidents and events. A greater amount of data collected at the scene of the incident often produces the most detailed analysis and stronger conclusions.
- Electronic Total Work Station
- Precision measuring equipment used to capture specific scene measurements for diagrams and mathematic calculations
- Point Cloud Scanners
- Precision measuring equipment used to capture millions of scene measurements for diagrams and mathematic calculations (video is overlaid)
- Forensic CAD
- 3D, 2D, and animated diagrams are created from measurements collected at incident scenes (if it can be measured, it can be drawn)
- Mathematic Software
- Uses data collected at an incident scene to assist with calculating forces at work during an event (e.g., speeds, momentum, time/distance analysis)
- Drone Photography/Video
- Captures high-definition photographs and videos from an aerial perspective; provides 90‑degree images for use in scale diagrams; gains access to areas where only authorized personnel are allowed
- Video Analysis/Enhancement
- Uses available surveillance video for multiple purposes:
- Analyze time/distance (any moving object or objects)
- Determine sequence of events
- Verify overall incident timing
- Uncover potential fraudulent claims
As you can see, it’s important to keep an open mind when it comes time to making a decision regarding your case. If you have an incident that involves an object or objects in motion, a reconstruction may be able to offer clarity and strengthen your overall case. Remember, reconstructions aren’t just for motor vehicle crashes anymore.