Accident Investigations – Hiring the Right Expert at the Right Time

TASA ID: 16816

Investigating any accident is typically a complex endeavor in which there are numerous intrinsic processes and interrelated elements that have usually led to the accident.  Therefore, it is important that the expert investigating the accident has the training and experience to deal with that specific type of accident relating to your case.  Often, I see law firms reaching out for experts who have acronyms after their name (assumed to ensure credibility) but they do not possess the necessary background, experience or training related to the specific accident being investigated. Not all accidents are the same... construction, property or slip, trip and fall are all quite different.  The investigator has to have the experience with that accident type to be able to identify and analyze the individual elements that were or were not in place.  The investigator then must be able to piece the elements together to understand their relation to the “whole” of the accident to determine the root causes and liabilities associated with the accident. 

Rarely are accidents the result of one simple act of the employee, contractor, individual or the company or property owner, and should not be treated as such; i.e., the plaintiff or the defendant failed to do this and that is what caused the accident.  Accidents most often are the result of a string of processes and/or process failures that when interconnected resulted in the accident. 

The complexity of accidents are as much about what happened, how it happened, and why it happened, as they are about what, how and why certain things didn’t happen.  Responsible parties whose actions or inactions significantly and/or effectually contributed to the resulting accident are not always apparent nor are they confined to those who were at the scene of the accident. For instance, the owner of a construction company who does not approve the purchase of, and; therefore, does not provide the appropriate personal protection equipment to their employee who was injured is as complicit in the accident as the site foreman or supervisor who actively put the worker in harm’s way

Additionally, when you hire your expert is just as important.  Unfortunately, I have reviewed many accident cases in which the legal team who hired me late in their process had previously failed to ask the requisite technical questions and/or request certain information that would have allowed me a better opportunity to fully piece together the root cause of the accident.  I often scratch my head wondering why I wasn’t brought in much sooner to help prepare the attorney for the deposition, develop their interrogatories, etc.  The trained expert needs to work strategically and tactically with their legal team to break the accident down into the basic people and process elements that occurred before, during and after the accident.  Understanding and analyzing each of these elements as a function of the overall accident will allow the legal team to create a stronger overall plan for the case.

So what does this all mean?  In my opinion, the best chance for firms to prevail in an accident-related legal action whether representing the plaintiff or the defendant will be with those who choose the most qualified expert based on the specific type of accident, and, those firms who work in concert with that expert from the beginning of their case.  With those two elements in place, the legal team will be better able to understand the nuances of the accident, it’s root cause elements and will then be better able to ascertain all those appropriately liable. 

TASA Article Disclaimer

This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of TASA and the author (TASA Id#: 16816). Contact marketing@tasanet.com for any questions.

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