1. Why is a technical report by an independent expert important?
In many cases, an experienced adjuster can determine if damage matches, or an impact occurred at speeds that generally will not cause injury. However, having a person whose training and experience has been solely in this area render an opinion means that it is not biased, and is evaluated only on the facts. Company pressures and emotional clients are not part of what the expert has to deal with. It lends credibility to case settlement options.
2. What items in a typical case file do you need to see to do a technical analysis?
We need to know how the accident occurred. Just saying the insured rear ended the claimant tells only part of the story, and leaves out some essential information needed for our analysis. We need to know what the vehicles were doing immediately prior to the accident, what they did during the collision, and what happened to the vehicles immediately after the accident. We need to know what the damages were to the vehicles. Damage estimates and photos will usually suffice. We need to know if there are any unusual injury claims such as striking the dashboard or windshield. Photographs are absolutely the best evidence and will make our opinion much stronger. The better the photograph, the better chance we have of making a proper analysis. While all of this information may not be available, the more there is, the better opportunity we have of giving you a strong, accurate answer.
3 . What is the minimum amount of information needed for a technical analysis?
Each case is different. In a recent case, all that was found in the claim file was a description of the vehicles, no damage estimates, no photographs, and about 4 to 6 inches of medical reports, The only thing We knew about the accident was that both cars had been stopped at an intersection, and the insured let her foot off the brake allowing her car roll forward and strike the back bumper of the other car. The claim was that the driver of the other vehicle suffered a TMJ injury. In this case we were able to provide likely Delta V's from the impact, incoming speed probabilities, and g-forces that would be present. Further, we were able to talk about the possibility of a TMJ injury and what studies have shown about how much force is required to suffer this type of injury. The results were that the medical claims were dropped and the rear bumper cover of the claimant vehicle was painted.
4. What is characterized as a "low speed impact"?
Any collision between two or more vehicles where the Delta V's are less than 10 mph.
5. What is a Delta V, and why should I be concerned with it?
Delta V is a term used to define the change in speed that a vehicle goes through when it hits something. For instance, if a car was traveling 30 mph when it hits a deer, even without braking, the force of the impact would immediately slow the car down to 28 mph. The car then is said to have experienced a Delta V (change in speed) of 2 mph. The poor deer, who was standing still when hit, was suddenly accelerated to 28 mph and therefore experienced a Delta V of 28 mph.
Experience has shown that the Delta V is easily comparable to damage resulting from the impact. In the above example, the 2 mph Delta V on the car would probably only result in some scuff marks. However, at a Delta V of 28 mph, the chance of the deer surviving the crash is slim to none. Consequently, a Delta V can be used to describe what damage may be found on a vehicle, and what injuries one might expect to see.
6. What is the difference between the Delta V speed and the actual speed the vehicle was traveling when it hit the other vehicle?
The speed the vehicle was traveling at the moment of impact is usually referred to as the incoming speed or pre-impact speed. The speed the vehicle was traveling immediately after the accident is commonly referred to as the post impact speed. The Delta V speed is merely the difference between the two speeds.
7. Is "incoming speed" the same as the speed the vehicle was going before it began skidding?
No. The incoming speed is usually the speed the vehicle was traveling after it had slowed from some higher speed. Calculations can be done to determine what speed the vehicle was actually going before it applied it's brakes.
8. What is a g-force, and why is it so important to my case?
The term "g-force" is not really a force, but in fact is a way of describing the rate of acceleration or deceleration. It takes into account the weight of the object and how fast it was accelerated or decelerated to a certain speed. Without a g-force, we would all float off into space. There is 1 g holding us all here on earth. On the moon the g-force is about half, and we all saw the astronauts taking long leaping steps and jumps when they were there.
At a recent air show, the announcer described a particular turn one jet was doing as putting the pilot through a 6 g turn. In other words, if the pilot normally weighed 200 pounds, he now felt like he weighed 1,200 pounds (6 times the weight).
While the pilot's g-force was spread out over a longer period of time, the g-forces felt in an automobile accident occurs in about the blink of an eye (100 to 150 milliseconds). In fact the peak force is felt in about half of that time. These forces can be calculated using Newton's Second Law of Motion. As with the Delta V's, g-forces can be related to injuries. The human body can withstand considerable g-force change. However, it is important to know just how much that is, and be able to compare it do things people do in their everyday life.
9. How is the "potential for injury" figured?
The forces generated in a collision will tell not only how fast a vehicle or occupant was accelerated, but will also tell which direction. Knowing both of these things will lead to an understanding of what, if anything, they might have hit in the vehicle and how hard they hit it. G-forces can be related to activities of daily living based on studies performed. Crash testing of thousands of vehicles, documented in many technical papers, can be used to compare injury potential.
10. Is it important to know that a particular vehicle had an air bag, and whether is was deployed in the accident or not?
Yes. Typically, air bags do not deploy at speed changes less than 12 mph. Each automobile manufacturer carefully protects the actual essential elements of their particular design, however, government standards require a certain level of application. Air bags are deployed by an explosive device triggered by a switch that senses a sudden g-force in a certain direction. Rarely do you see air bags deploy in low speed impacts. However, the fact that they did not deploy helps substantiate the fact that this was indeed a low speed collision.
11. Do ABS brakes really make a vehicle stop in a shorter amount of time?
Theoretically yes. The concept of ABS brakes is to cause your vehicle to use it's maximum braking capability during full brake application. Locking up the tires and skidding is not as efficient as applying just enough brake pressure to not quite lock up the tires, and allow for some rotation. A skidding tire is traveling over melted rubber. A non-skidding tire is not, therefore it has a greater coefficient of friction. A skidding tire cannot be steered in any direction, it only wants to skid in the direction it was going when lock up occurred. A non-skidding tire can be steered, therefore, collision avoidance can be effected.
Problems have been brought to light concerning ABS brakes, that has caused considerable controversy as to their continued use. Testing has shown that under certain circumstances, a vehicle with ABS brakes can in fact take longer to stop than a vehicle with a non-ABS system. One of those circumstances is that if during heavy braking the driver tries to steer around something, the total time and distance to stop will actually increase. While the ABS system allows for the steering maneuver, it can lengthen the total time and distance to stop. Also, the ABS systems are merely electromechanical devices that are usually positioned in the worst possible places, and can malfunction easily. Fortunately, when they do malfunction, what you are left with is full brake lock up.
Any professional driver can do a better job of braking than the majority of the ABS systems. Also, some vehicles such as pickup trucks, only have the ABS on the rear axle. This is to keep the vehicle from rotating during heavy braking.
12. What is the difference between a case file review, and a full accident reconstruction?
In a Case File Review, only the information contained in the case file is analyzed to determine how serious the accident was, does the damages match, or just how did the accident occur. In a full accident reconstruction, the vehicles are physically examined, the accident scene is visited, and any and all forms of evidence are analyzed. Obviously, a full accident reconstruction takes longer to accomplish. However, in serious injury accidents where litigation will probably occur, a full accident reconstruction can save a claim file from outrageous monetary demands.