Assembling Materials for Your Accident Investigation/Reconstruction

TASA ID: 366

The more information the accident reconstruction analyst has in the beginning of the investigation, the better advantage(s)he has in analyzing your case.

Contrary to popular belief, every accident is different in some form. However, gathering the basic information on most accidents remains constant.

Attorneys, insurance investigators, or municipalities have the responsibility to assemble the materials to forward to the reconstruction expert. The more materials available to the expert in the beginning of the investigation, the more information he/she can offer about how and perhaps why an accident occurred.

Exceptions do exist, especially if the expert is called to the scene when the accident is still ongoing. This may occur if the expert works on-call with his client and is available to respond to the accident scene before the vehicles and evidence are moved. In most civil matters, this will not occur.

Generally, most experts are called into an investigation several months or years after the event occurred.

The following materials are recommended, and if available, should be forwarded to the expert before (s)he begins his or her investigation:

  • Police accident report(s)
  • Police accident scene photographs, field sketch, and/with measurements.
  • Witness statements (including driver(s)
  • Emergency technician or rescue personnel documents/
  • Medical records (hospital or medical examiner)
  • Deposition transcripts of all parties
  • Photographs and repair estimates of the accident vehicle(s)
  • Investigation reports and photographs
  • Opposing expert reports or exchanges

After conferring with the client, the expert and the client should form a plan as to how the accident will be investigated. Once all the materials have been reviewed, the expert needs to make arrangements to visit the accident site. If the vehicles are still available, they should also be examined.

The expert and the client should discuss whether the client (and perhaps the client's party) should meet at the site of the accident. Having the client at the accident site can be useful for the expert when he conducts his analysis. Also, having one of the parties involved in the accident at the site can help the expert in his interpretation of the events.

An important factor in the overall reconstruction is the ability to report that the accident site has not changed in its appearance since the day of the event. Usually photographs recorded near the date of the event can establish that there were no changes. However, there are times when legal documents must be obtained to verify no changes.

An accident investigation usually focuses on the three main events that take place during an accident. These events can be broken down into  pre-collision paths of travel, collision, and post-collision paths of travel. Reviewing submitted materials may assist the expert in determining these events. Determining one or more of these events may be the purpose of why the expert was hired. Discussing these three events with the client can be one method used by the expert to help the client understand the accident.

Pre-collision paths of travel

In order to establish the pre-collision paths of travel of vehicles, pedestrians, cycles or other accident -involved units, the analysis must include a thorough evaluation of statements or testimony given by all parties involved. Police reports can also be used to assist. Damage profiles exhibited by the vehicles, or injuries sustained by pedestrians or cyclists, can also be used in determining pre-collision paths of travel.


The area of collision (also referred to as area of impact) is usually established by marks on the road, such as scarring, gouges, or scrapes in the pavement. If these marks don't exist anymore, pre-collision paths of travel can help to line up the vehicle(s) to establish where on the road the collision occurred.

Post-collision paths of travel

Post-collision paths of travel should lead to where the vehicles came to final rest after the collision. This location is important because it could help the expert determine the collision speed range of the accident vehicles. Locating the final rest of the vehicles can sometimes be determined by eyewitness accounts or interviews with emergency personnel. Occasionally, the expert might locate accident scene evidence at the site, or through photographs that can assist in determining the final rest.

Preparing and planning for a thorough accident investigation and reconstruction will save the client time and money. Preliminary findings in the early stages of the investigation can aid the clients in determining how much time and money they want to spend on a particular matter.

After an expert reviews and analyzes the accident scene evidence, the client needs to decide whether a written report is necessary. It is recommended that if a written report is produced, the report content should focus on the issues discussed with the client. The expert should not add additional information in the report that could complicate the matter at some later date.

It must be kept in mind that all work conducted by an expert could be subject to cross-examination during trial.

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.

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