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Understanding accident reconstruction

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2022 | Tort Litigation

When two or more motor vehicles collide, the events comprising the accident happen in rapid succession. The drivers of the involved vehicles are ordinarily too involved in trying to avoid the collision to make careful observations about exactly what is happening.

Eyewitnesses may be more useful, but their testimony also has unreliable portions. Individuals charged with ensuring the safety of highway travel in Texas and elsewhere want to know exactly what happened.

The vehicles’ speeds, last minute maneuvers to avoid the accident, and determination of fault are all critical questions. When direct observation fails to provide an accurate picture, investigators turn to a special field of forensic engineering: accident reconstruction.

First steps

Many municipal police departments in Texas, and the Texas Highway Patrol, have specialized teams that are trained in the science of accident reconstruction. Many private engineering firms also offer such services.

After receiving word of an accident, an investigation team will report to the site as soon as possible. Their first task is to make a careful inventory of the accident by collecting debris, noting the location of involved vehicles, measuring and recording visible evidence such as skid marks, and interviewing eyewitnesses.

The investigators will also make an extensive video and photographic record of the scene. Most contemporary vehicles have electronic trip recorders from which the investigators can download helpful data about the vehicle’s speed, fuel consumption, condition of the airbags, and angle of steering.

Laboratory analysis

The investigating engineers make careful measurements of the degree to which the metal frames of the vehicles have been distorted by the collision. This information, when compared to information in industry publications that provide engineering data, can help determine the speed of the vehicles and other aspects of the crash.

Computer modeling

Using sophisticated computer programs, the investigation team can create a video simulation of the accident. A computer simulation can be extremely useful in analyzing crash data and presenting to a jury in an easily understandable form.


The choice of whether to engage an accident reconstruction team often depends on who will pay for the work.

Most Texas police departments send an accident reconstruction team to any accident involving a fatality. Private engineering firms should be engaged immediately in anticipation of a personal injury lawsuit.

Experienced personal injury attorneys work with forensic engineering firms, direct the investigation and use the results of their investigation to advocate on behalf of their clients.