When law enforcement is called to the scene of an auto accident, their investigation is typically limited to speaking to the drivers involved in the accident along with any witnesses. From there, the police officers will conduct a quick examination of the scene of the accident. Within an accident report, it is not uncommon for a police officer to draw a conclusion regarding the degree of responsibility of the drivers involved in the accident based upon this limited investigation.
Sometimes, usually in complex accidents resulting in serious injury or death, the police will take their investigation a step further and hire an expert to reconstruct the accident for the purpose of determining who was responsible. However, despite its seeming authority, not even this type of report can be consistently relied upon.
Several years ago, I represented a client who was killed when his vehicle collided with a large truck as the truck was attempting to make a left turn out of a fuel depot. At the time of the collision the cab of the truck had fully cleared my client’s lane and was facing forward in the oncoming lane of traffic with headlights on. However, the trailer of the truck was fully blocking my client’s lane of traffic. As the area was poorly lit and the truck did not have proper reflective equipment along the trailer, my client was unable to see the trailer before he collided with it.
The police retained an accident reconstruction expert who determined that my client was 100% at fault as he should have seen the truck and been able to stop his vehicle before the collision occurred. After viewing this accident report, I retained several experts of my own who noticed some serious flaws in the police expert’s reconstruction. For one, the police expert had reconstructed the accident without considering the fact that the truck was carrying a full load at the time of the accident. This caused the police expert to inaccurately determine the speed of the truck and wrongly concluded that my client had enough time to stop his vehicle. In addition, the police expert had failed to properly consider the impact of the poor lighting conditions and the lack of reflective equipment on my client’s ability to see the trailer. I was able to retain an expert who concluded that these factors created visibility conditions such that my client could not have seen the trailer and stopped in time to avoid the collision. As a result, I was able to obtain a substantial settlement in favor of my client.