The Value of an Accident Scene Visit
On the Scene E-Newsletter, Edition 89, November 19, 2008
CED engineers follow a proven approach on every insurance claim or legal case they undertake. The approach includes preparatory research, an inspection, analysis, testing if required, a report of findings if required and then deposition and trial testimony. All the way through the process our engineers exercise the attention to detail needed to be successful during a deposition and at trial. Many cases settle short of trial, but proceeding with the vision of presenting opinions to a jury is the approach that has provided excellent results for clients on a consistent basis.
The inspection or scene visit is a key element to the work of the engineering expert. The engineer uses this visit to confirm statements from witnesses and accident reports and to better understand later deposition testimony. Oftentimes, it is the scene visit that uncovers contributing factors not previously considered.
In a recent vehicular case, for example, an engineer measured roadway gradients that were significant to causation, but the only notation in the accident report was whether the grade was uphill, level or downhill. Another factor in this same case was visibility constraints which would not have been fully understood by the engineer or quantified without visiting the scene.
In machinery accidents, determining the condition of the equipment and modifications that have been performed requires a physical inspection. In many cases, the original piece of machinery has been altered over the years through maintenance, repairs and upgrades. This status can be documented by visual inspection and then validated by review of service and maintenance records and invoices. Having an experienced engineer operate the machine or just watch the operation has often led to insights about the key issues in industrial accidents.
Perhaps the most important reason for an engineering expert to visit an accident scene is to establish credibility for his opinions. Even valid opinions become suspect on cross-examination when the expert admits he never visited the scene and an expert that loses credibility undermines the entire case.
Areas of Expertise