Finding the Right Expert in Commercial Motor Vehicle Collisions:
April 26, 2021
Commercial Motor Vehicle, or heavy truck cases are extremely complex and require a level of expertise that is unique only to CMV collisions. When choosing an expert, it is not a one size fits all situation. Whether using a reconstructionist or engineer, you want to ensure they have the proper training and experience in these types of investigations.
Digital evidence can also be short-lived. You want to ensure you get your expert involved quickly, as well as take the proper steps to preserve any potential data.
In this post, we will discuss some basic items to consider when preserving evidence, as well as what to look for in an expert.
1. Time is of the essence. Secure data!!!
The newer trucks on the road have a ton of possibilities for having event data recorder (or black box) information. In the early days of truck event data recorders, the only information available came from a select few engines that had data on their engine control modules. For many years this remained true, but that is no longer the case. Now trucks have many different electronic control units, and even telematic devices which can give information related to your collision. In addition, many late model trucks have collision avoidance devices that can also give data on your collision and tell you if the driver or the truck applied brakes or intervention methods to avoid a crash.
Electronic logs can give historical data for many days prior to the collision. They also can trigger a “critical event” that surrounds a collision. You must be specific when asking for this data.
Many new trucks also have either a factory installed camera system, or an aftermarket system that can take still photos or video of a critical event. Some of these cameras may work in conjunction with collision avoidance systems and the driver or company may not even be aware of them on the truck.
And in the end, do not forget the basics. Heavy trucks are a strictly regulated industry, for reason. This is because of their size, weight, and potential for injury and damage if not operating properly. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s three-day International Roadcheck event in 2020, resulted in an overall vehicle out-of-service rate of 20.9% in North America.
You may only get one chance to inspect the vehicle. Many times, trucks can be repaired and put back in service when passenger cars in the same collision will be totaled. If a brake problem or other defect contributed to the crash, this evidence is also short-lived. You need to make sure you have a qualified expert who conducts regular post-crash inspections on trucks and is also familiar with the federal regulations related to the trucking industry.
2. Choosing the right expert.
Many engineers and reconstructionist say they can handle a heavy truck collision the same as any other collision. You need an expert who specializes in heavy truck collisions for the same reason you wouldn’t go to a podiatrist when having heart problems. Sure, anyone who goes through the basic collision reconstruction training series will get a lecture on commercial motor vehicle collisions… Maybe they even went to a 40- or 80-hour course on CMV crash investigations. But have they ever investigated and testified in CMV collision cases? Have they done research on the validity of methods used? Do they have a CDL, or ever driven a truck?
You want to do your homework before hiring the wrong person.
Take these three main points into account when selecting an expert:
a. Is my expert qualified?
Have they been trained specifically on Commercial Motor Vehicle collisions? Many different training organizations offer training specific to CMV’s and heavy trucks. Technology is constantly evolving. Even if they have been trained, how often do they retrain, or go to conferences specific to CMV crash investigation/reconstruction.
b. Is my expert equipped?
Handling CMV collisions are a costly business. You must have expensive equipment to access event data recorders. Often this cannot be done through the diagnostic port, and the module has to be interrogated off of the truck. If your expert cannot provide this service in-house, this adds time and expense to your case.
Special tools are required to inspect brakes, and plumb into damaged air lines/tanks if the truck sustained heavy damage. Scales are needed to get axle weights to calculate brake force, and total weight of the truck is needed for momentum or kinetic energy calculations. If your expert does not have access to scales, they are probably using published data. While this may get you close, you will want to narrow down results by getting accurate data.
c. Can my expert communicate with a jury/judge?
This may be the most important of these three points. Can your expert communicate well, and does he come off as genuine and honest? They may be the most knowledgeable person in the room on CMV collisions, but if they cannot explain them on the simplest terms so everyone can understand, you have just waisted time and money.
We at Sooner Crash Consulting and Reconstruction specialize in Commercial Motor Vehicle/Heavy Truck collisions. James Loftis is a nationally recognized expert in CMV collisions and frequently instructs police officers, reconstrutionists and engineers on CMV collision reconstruction. He has often lectures at conferences across the United States on CMV collisions and Heavy Truck Event Data Recorders. He conducts validation testing on Heavy Truck Event Data Recorders many times per year.
We are fully equipped to handle your Commercial Motor Vehicle collision investigation needs or can assist your local reconstructionist or engineer in their investigation.
Give us a call, or email today at (918)837-1935 or firstname.lastname@example.org