Elements of an accident investigation

Whether an injury case goes to a jury or whether it is settled out of court, success is determined by the evidence secured during investigation and reconstruction of the accident.

A proper investigation -- by police, by insurance companies, by attorneys -- is mindful of the importance of this evidence, and approaches the evidence with this attitude foremost in mind.

Police and private investigators

There are two main types of investigations:

  • Police investigations of serious accidents, including those resulting in fatalities, seek to determine if a crime was committed. They look for signs of excessive speed, reckless driving, and alcohol and drug use.
  • Private investigators seek to establish liability and financial responsibility for the damage done. They look for any indications that one side was responsible for the crash and resulting injuries.

A proper investigation begins at the scene of the accident. Investigators look for evidence of point of impact, skid marks, damage to roadway, and where the vehicles came to rest. Using a laptop to measure these action points, the data can be applied later to reconstruction of the accident.

After vehicles have been towed away

Once the involved vehicles have been removed from the scene, they can still be analyzed for important information: condition of components such as tires, brakes, steering, lights and springs. Investigators also examine documents relevant to the accident: driving records, truck logs and other records.

Like the police, investigators will look for signs that one driver was in the wrong. They are on the lookout for errors such as failing to yield, disregarded traffic signs or lights, traveling too fast given weather conditions and improper turns. Witnesses are interviewed and GPS records are jotted down.

The best evidence will prevail

In an any accident evaluation, the evidence obtained by investigators is critical to determining who was at fault in the crash. Both sides in an inquiry will develop their own theory of what happened. In most cases, the theory or reconstruction that makes most sense will prevail, whether in court or at the settlement table.

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