Getting the Most Out of Surveillance Video Analysis

People often don’t know the value of an object until they have an expert analyze it – the same is true for surveillance video.

A forensic engineer or “engineering expert” is often brought onboard in the claim/case process to help determine “what happened” or “how something happened”.   If the incident or accident is captured on video, frequently it is assumed that an engineer is not needed.  “Why do we need an engineer to explain to us what happened, when we have it right here on tape” is commonly the mindset.   The reasoning is that engineers are used to “reconstructing” accidents, if the incident is on tape then no reconstruction is necessary.  In actuality, the reverse is usually true.  Having video evidence to work with is often when an engineer can provide the greatest assistance.  

Forensic engineers are always trying to eliminate variables and elucidate hard facts regarding an incident.  The fewer variables, or unknowns, and the more facts they are working with, the more accurate their findings can be.  An engineer reconstructing an accident would always prefer to have access to the vehicle involved in the crash rather than try to reconstruct the accident from some photos and repair receipts.  Similarly, having access to video of an incident can be invaluable to an engineer and his clients.  Surveillance videos often contain invaluable information that can only be brought out with in-depth analysis techniques (such as frame-by-frame analysis) combined with engineering analysis.

 Opportunistic Fraud
A customer falls in a retail establishment.  It’s captured on video, there’s no refuting that the event happened.  But, was it a slip or trip caused by a hazard or was it the result of a misstep or malfunctioning footwear?  There are unique bodily motions associated with each of these events, and a trained biomechanical engineer can review the video to determine what caused the fall. 

There may be no question what caused a fall, but there may be disagreement as to whether or not the fall could cause the injuries claimed.  Without video, this can be difficult.  An engineer must rely on witness reports of the incident that can vary greatly, and often the individual who suffered the fall won’t clearly recall how they fell.  Body position and the correct order of what hit what and when are critically important and very difficult to ascertain with the needed degree of accuracy.  With a video record of the fall, most of the variables are eliminated.  The body’s position throughout the event is now known, the forces applied to the body can be determined and the probability of a particular injury resulting from the fall can then be verified. 

Assume the Worst
Without solid evidence, engineers are often forced to assume the worst-case-scenario in their calculations.  For example, a six foot person falls and claims that they hit their head.  Without evidence to the contrary, an engineer must concede that individual’s head could have fallen unimpeded over that entire six feet before striking the floor at approximately 13mph.  However, the calculated speed and the forces from the event can be drastically altered if a video exists showing the individual, for instance, landed on their rear end before rolling backwards and contacting the ground with their head.

Exact Speeds
A delivery van backs into a bicyclist in a parking lot.  It’s right there on video, what can an engineer tell you that you can’t already see?  After an expert reviews the video you’ll know the exact speed of the van.  You’ll know the exact speed of bicycle.  You can determine who could see whom and when.  You can determine if the van could have stopped.  You can determine if the bicycle could have avoided the crash.  You’ll also know the forces exerted on all participants and the potential injuries that could have resulted.

There as so many variables in any incident or accident.  When the event is captured on video many of those variables are quantified.  The rigid parameters needed to accurately reconstruct the incident are now present.  Often you just need an expert to show you what you have. Please call 800.780.4221 to discuss your case or claim.