Expertly Speaking

robert-lynch-accident-collision-reconstruction-expert

DJS Announcment


Robert T. Lynch, PE, Sr. Collision Reconstruction Engineer for DJS Associates, recently completed the Post-Baccalaureate Credit Certificate Program in Human Factors Engineering and Ergonomics through Penn State University. The program allowed Bob to obtain a deeper understanding of the human processes involved behind the fundamental concepts of collision reconstruction such as hazard identification and perception-reaction time. By obtaining this certificate, Bob has the educational background and knowledge to address issues pertaining to visibility, particularly at night or in low illumination environments, and how people will respond when faced with a sudden emergency. This knowledge will prove useful in cases involving pedestrian impacts, tractor-trailer side underride collisions, and encountering a slow-moving or stopped vehicle on a highway, to name a few.

Congratulations Bob!

Robert T. Lynch, PE can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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mechanical-expert-witness-roadway-lanes

Lane Change & Crash: Who, When, Where?


Robert S. Kinder, Jr., MS, Mechanical Engineer ::::

The driver of a Jeep SUV stated they were approaching a four-way intersection when a GMC pickup truck changed lanes and entered their path of travel, requiring the driver to steer right to avoid impacting the GMC. The Jeep then crashed into a guiderail on the right corner of the intersection. Moments prior to the incident, the Jeep and GMC vehicles were on the westbound side of the roadway in different lanes. There were three lanes in the westbound direction including a left turn only, a center, and a right lane.

An investigation revealed that the GMC was stopped for a period in the left turn only lane and then executed a right turn into the Jeep’s path of travel (center lane). As part of the investigation, data was obtained from the Event Data Recorders (EDR) in the vehicles. Using the physical evidence found at the collision site and the EDR data obtained from the vehicles, the collision sequence was reconstructed. The Jeep was operating within the posted speed limit when the event data indicated that the brakes were applied with rightward steering input consistent with the driver’s testimony. Applying the laws of physics to the available data confirmed that with full braking the Jeep did not have sufficient distance to fully stop before impacting the guiderail. The investigation also revealed that the Jeep did not have sufficient time or roadway to avoid a collision with both the GMC and the guiderail. The Jeep collided with a fixed object; however, the insurance carrier declared that the Jeep driver was not at fault. Below is a portion of the Jeep’s event data including some of the parameters recorded by the EDR and utilized to reconstruct the moments just prior to the crash.

Event Data Recorder

 

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., MS, is a Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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aquatic-safety-expert-waterslide

Woman Injures Herself Discharging From Waterslide


Thomas J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Consultant ::::

A young mother took her two children to a family leisure pool with water slides at an aquatic facility. According to her testimony, after taking a few successful slides down a large, fast waterslide, the woman asked the lifeguard on duty if she could go down the waterslide laying on her stomach. Although her testimony was that the lifeguard said she could go down the slide in this inappropriate and unsafe manner, the lifeguard on duty denied it. There were large, visible signs posted at the slide, which clearly stated that all riders should be seated in an upright position or laying down on their backs; all other riding positions were prohibited. Because the woman slid down the slide blindly, with her face towards the flume, she was unable to see when she would be discharged into the shallow water, and therefore could not properly prepare for impact by flexing her knees. Due to her blind and dangerous backward position, she severely injured her foot and ankle. This lawsuit went to trial and the jury deliberated for approximately ten minutes and rendered a verdict for the defense.

Lessons learned: Waterslides are designed for safety. With lifeguards positioned both at the top and the bottom of each slide, they are typically very safe. Most slide injuries are caused by rider misbehavior. Perhaps the most significant finding in this case was the woman signed a waiver prior to entering the waterpark releasing the aquatic facility of responsibility if she became injured during her use of the facility.

Verdict for the defense.

Thomas J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Consultant with DJS Associates, can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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biomechanical-expert-witness-rollercoaster-accident

Plaintiff Incurs Spinal Cord Injury on Rollercoaster


Robert J. Nobilini, Ph.D., Biomechanical Engineer ::::

Case Synopsis: The plaintiff was injured while riding a rollercoaster. He testified that the ride was “awfully bumpy” and when the ride ended, he was unable to move. He was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a distraction fracture and spinal cord injury at the C6-7 level of his cervical spine along with previously undiagnosed ankylosing spondylitis.

Expert Analysis: An examination of the subject rollercoaster revealed the presences of brackets on the sides of the track. These brackets contained adjustment screws, which pushed inward on the rails of the track. It was observed that numerous brackets were broken and/or non-functional. Subsequently, it was discovered that these brackets had been installed sometime after the initial installation of the ride to maintain the gauge of the track.

Further investigation revealed that when the ride initially opened, the cars were slapping hard in the turns, which was causing the axles on the cars to break. It was determined that the reason the axles were breaking was because the gauge of the track was widening. To stop the axles from braking, gauge brackets were installed to maintain the gauge of the track. Several years later, the cars were rebuilt with stronger axles. Since the axles were stronger, it was determined that the gauge brackets were no longer needed. Some of the brackets were removed and others were loosened and abandoned. As a result, the gauge of the track widened over time and the cars began to slap hard in the turns again.

The slapping of the cars in the turns increased the lateral loads on the cars, as well as on the patrons of the ride. The ride owner was aware and concerned about the effect of the increased lateral loads on the axles of the cars. However, once the strength of the axles was increased, no consideration was given to the patrons of the ride.

The plaintiff in this case had an undiagnosed, pre-existing condition (i.e. ankylosing spondylitis), which increased his risk of injury. The ride owner’s failure to properly maintain the gauge of the track resulted in the plaintiff being exposed to higher than intended lateral loads. These loads, in combination with the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition, were the cause of his injuries.

Results: The case settled favorably for the plaintiff.

Robert J. Nobilini, Ph.D., Biomechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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Double Counting 1 of 2: Household Chores… Done Remotely


Irina Balashova, CPA, CIA, CFE, Economic Consultant ::::

When assessing economic losses, be aware of the potential double counting of damages, utilizing different categories of loss.

Case Synopsis: A traveling agent was injured in an MVA. Prior to the injury, the plaintiff spent the majority of her time away from home, as her service area spanned across multiple states. She purchased a home in an area that would reduce commuting time. She returned home sporadically, staying there approximately seven days a month. Her economic claims were for both loss of income and loss of household services.

Expert Analysis: The claim for lost earnings was based on traveling agent’s ability to succeed in her work, which required extensive traveling. This requirement was a necessity in order to generate income. Her workweek was much longer than normal 40 hours, 70 to 80 hours on average. She also routinely stayed overnight away from home. A loss of household services claim, at a minimum, requires the plaintiff’s consistent presence at home when not working.

The facts of the case essentially contradicted each other and thus, only one of the two claims could be supported. The case facts show that the loss of household services claim lacks merit. The plaintiff appeared to be focused on building her career, which was evident from her steadily increasing annual earnings and the fact that she received bonuses and positive appraisals. From a household services perspective, plaintiff’s husband testified there was no, or limited, involvement from her related to performing household services.
Even though there are statistics showing the average time people in various stages of their life commit to household services, the case specific facts here showed otherwise. Having proper documentation on hand as well as relevant testimony, can make it easier to rebut any unreasonable claims. Having your economic expert involved early to advise/assist in discovery and request relevant documents and testimony can help resolve these claims.

Result: case was settled with no amount for double claim.

Irina Balashova, CPA, CIA, CFE, is an Economic Consultant with DJS Associates, and can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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Car backing up

New Regulations for Back-Up Cameras


Leslie E. Lovre, Technical Assistant :::::

Federal regulators call them backover events; those heartbreaking accidents, often involving small children, wherein a rearward-moving vehicle strikes and often injures, sometimes fatally, someone standing in or crossing its path. For many years, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) have required rear and side-view mirrors to, in part, help minimize such incidents; yet, studies show that nearly 300 fatalities, and over 18,000 injuries, occur annually due to backover events. In apparent recognition of this risk, some auto manufacturers have begun equipping vehicles with back-up cameras and dash-mounted displays; in fact, all vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less will soon be required to have them.

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