Memory can be tricky – especially after a traumatic event such as a car accident. This is why the attorneys of Powers & Santola, LLP, often turn to forensics to determine what really happened in a car accident instead of relying solely on the police accident report and witness accounts.
Accident reconstruction experts are engineers and other trained professionals. Our car accident attorneys will consult with them during the investigation of a case. We can also call upon them to provide testimony if a motor vehicle accident case goes to trial.
Our work with accident reconstruction experts is just one of the many legal services we can provide if you or a loved one has been harmed in a car crash through no fault of your own in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in New York. If you would like to learn more, call Powers & Santola, LLP, or reach us online to schedule a free review of your case.
What is Car Accident Reconstruction?
Reconstructing a car accident involves gathering and analyzing a variety of technical data related to the speed and direction of movement of vehicles before, after and at the point of impact in a collision. The analysis is based on principles of physics and engineering.
A car accident reconstruction would involve recording, testing, measuring and determining:
- Damage to the vehicles
- Operational capability of vehicle systems (brakes, steering, suspension)
- Pre- and post-impact direction of travel
- Distances moved post-impact
- Impact angles
- Length of pre-impact skid marks and yaw (side-to-side) marks
- Friction values for traffic surfaces.
Part of the information gathered could come from the event data recorder (EDR or “black box”), which is now found in most late-model vehicles. Once an airbag is deployed in a car, the EDR records such information as:
- Date and time
- Vehicle speed
- Engine speed (RPMs)
- Steering angle
- Throttle (gas pedal) position
- Braking status
- Force of impact
- Seatbelt status.
Once forensic experts gather data, the information can be analyzed with the assistance of specialized computer programs. These programs can also be used to create graphic and animated depictions of the crash. This media, along with the expert’s testimony and a narrative text report entered into evidence, can go a long way in helping a jury understand the facts in a car accident case or to persuade an insurance company to settle.
What Are “Black Boxes” in Passenger Cars?
You may have heard about “black box” recorders in news reports about airline crashes. You may not realize that those same types of event data recorders, or EDRs, are found today in most passenger cars.77
These devices can make a variety of informative data available after a car accident. This information can be downloaded and used to establish how and why a car accident happened as well as who was really responsible for the crash.
Examining black box contents from each car involved in a crash has become a crucial part of accident investigations conducted by Powers & Santola, LLP. To learn about how we use EDR information to seek just compensation for clients in Albany, Syracuse and throughout New York, call or connect with us online. We can provide a free consultation about your case.
If activated by a crash, EDRs record certain information about the operation of the vehicles they are in. The information can corroborate findings from traditional crash investigation techniques. It can also provide information about a crash that cannot be obtained through traditional methods.
EDRs are in almost all late-model cars. However, they are not yet mandatory. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed making EDRs standard equipment in all U.S. cars. The NHTSA has already passed a rule that standardizes the data collected by black boxes and how it can be retrieved.
In passenger cars, EDRs are typically tied into the airbag system. They record information if an airbag deploys. After most crashes, the data can be downloaded with specialized computer software. In some cases, EDR data does not survive a crash.
As of model year 2013, all EDRs must record:
- Speed of the vehicle prior to a crash
- Change – including maximum change – in forward crash speed
- Time when the maximum change in forward crash speed occurred
- How far the accelerator pedal was pressed at the time of crash
- Whether the brake was applied at impact
- Ignition cycle at the time of the crash
- Whether the driver was using a seat, lap or shoulder belt
- Whether the front air bag warning lamp was on
- Driver’s side front air bag deployment time
- Front passenger’s front air bag deployment time
- Number of crash events and time between the first two events
- Whether the EDR completed recording tasks.
Some higher-end vehicles have advanced EDRs. They may record such data as:
- Sideways acceleration
- Forward or rearward acceleration
- Engine speed
- Driver steering input
- Front passenger seat, lap or shoulder belt status
- Engagement of electronic stability control system
- Antilock brake system activity
- Side air bag deployment time for driver and right-front passenger
- Seat track positions for driver and right-front passenger
- Occupant size and position for driver and right-front passengers.
EDRs also have automatic crash notification systems that are designed to alert emergency responders – police and medical personnel – when crashes occur.
EDR Data and Car Accident Investigations
The information collected by a passenger vehicle black box belongs to the vehicle owner. However, police or investigators can access the data with the owner’s consent, or they can obtain a court order to gain access if the owner refuses.
In a study of EDRs and their use, the NHTSA states, “The results of the engineering analysis show that EDR data can objectively report real-world crash data and therefore be a powerful investigative and research tool, by providing very useful information to crash reconstruction experts and vehicle safety researchers.” However, the NHTSA cautions that EDR data should be used with other evidence.
The car accident investigators of Powers & Santola, LLP, use data from a car’s black box device as part of a broader accident investigation, which may include a full accident reconstruction. Gaining access to this data and other information before it is lost due to a wrecked car being repaired or scrapped is crucial. This is why we advise car accident victims to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after a motor vehicle accident.
Sooner is Better for Car Accident Reconstruction
The work of an accident reconstruction expert depends heavily on prompt access to the vehicles involved in the accident and to the accident scene. In a crash that may have been caused by a motor vehicle defect, it is crucial to have access to the car before it is altered in any way.
A car that was involved in a wreck may be repaired or, if declared totaled, may be destroyed soon after an accident. Time and weather will degrade the accident scene. Crucial evidence can be lost forever.
This is why it is helpful for a car accident victim to contact an attorney right away after a crash. In some cases, a car accident victim’s attorney may be required to obtain a court order to ensure that the other driver’s car is preserved and made available to the victim’s legal team. An attorney can ensure that the accident scene is examined quickly after being retained by an accident victim.
Allow Our Albany Car Accident Lawyers To Investigate Your Accident
If you have been injured in a car accident in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in New York, act now to ensure your accident is fully investigated. Contact Powers & Santola, LLP, car accident attorneys, today for a free legal consultation. We can act fast to start the work required to determine the true cause of your car crash and seek the compensation you are due.
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