Expertly Speaking

Riding the Wrong Way at Night


Robert T. Lynch, P.E., Principal Collision Reconstruction Engineer

An adult bicyclist was traveling at night on the left side of a 40-mile-per-hour, two-lane roadway with little to no shoulder when he was struck by the passenger side mirror of a passing vehicle. The bicyclist sustained an injury to his right arm. An investigation revealed there were no active lights on the bicycle, only retroreflectors.

The bicyclist brought suit against the driver for not avoiding the collision. An expert for the bicyclist opined that even though the bicyclist was in the wrong for riding on the left side of the roadway without a headlight, the vehicle operator should/could have observed the retroreflectors, understood their meaning, and avoided the collision. The vehicle operator had a minimal insurance policy which was tendered; however, the bicyclist brought an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim against his own insurance company.

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Digital Car Keys


Timothy R. Primrose, Mobile Forensic Expert

The 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), like almost everything else in 2020, employed necessary changes due to COVID-19. The WWDC is an annual (in-person) event that Apple hosts for developers to meet Apple engineers and attend different sessions and labs. Apple also provides information about ongoing projects and upcoming releases. Due to COVID-19, WWDC became a virtual event.

On Monday, June 22, 2020, Apple held a 2-hour live stream to kick off the virtual WWDC where they revealed various new features that would be implemented in the next iOS update. One standout feature is Apple’s new “digital car key” which enables iPhone users to enter, start, and operate their cars from their smartphones. The concept is simple: program your phone, then leave your car keys at home. Apple’s goal is convenience for their consumers, providing them with a way to leave home with one less possession to worry about.

The digital car key grants users with the ability to unlock their vehicle by tapping their phone on the door. The feature utilizes near field communication (NFC) to communicate with the vehicle. Once in the driver’s seat, the phone is placed on a charging pad, which allows the vehicle operator to use the push to start functionality of the vehicle.

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Incident at Laundromat


Bryan J. Smith, P.E., Construction Site Safety/Slip, Trip and Fall Expert

Case Description/Summary: A laundromat patron approached the facility’s side entrance door from the exterior. After opening the door, she tripped on a 5-gallon cigarette bucket as she attempted to move out of her partner’s way into the building. The plaintiff’s expert alleged that the presence of the cigarette bucket at the incident location was due to the laundromat owner’s negligence and that the bucket infringed on patrons’ ability to egress the facility during emergent situations and hence violated the fire code.

Expert Analysis: A trip and fall expert was engaged by counsel for the defendant’s insurance company. A site survey was conducted just over 3 years after the incident to gather evidence on behalf of the defendant. Data collected during the site inspection led to the identification of the required means of egress pathway, necessary to comply with the adopted International Fire Code (IFC). The IFC defined “MEANS OF EGRESS. A continuous and unobstructed path of vertical and horizontal egress travel from any occupied portion of a building or structure to a public way. A means of egress consists of three separate and distinct parts: the exit access, the exit and the exit discharge.” IFC Section 1030.2 stated: “Reliability. Required exit accesses, exits or exit discharges shall be continuously maintained free from obstructions or impediments to full instant use in the case of fire or other emergency when the areas served by such exits are occupied.”

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3D Animation: Structural Failure of A Power Step


Hugh Borbidge, BSME, Director of 3D Engineering Animations

 

 

Our client came to us with an interesting challenge. How do we show the stresses involved in the structural failure of a Power Step? My first question was, what is a Power Step? Is it a new aerobics class? A Power Step is a hydraulic bucket lift that allows workers to board oversized construction equipment.

A previous failure of the Power Step involved a worker who fell from the bucket to the ground, sustaining serious injuries. A mechanical engineer was retained to study the stresses placed on the arm of the Power Step as it raised and lowered. The engineer was able to provide color stress maps of the arm at a few key positions.

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Vice Grip Slip


R. Scott King, BSME, CFEI, Principal Automotive/Mechanical Engineer

A homeowner was sued after a neighbor, who borrowed a mid-sized farm tractor, was fatally injured while using the tractor on his personal property. The neighbors had a years-long friendly agreement to share the tractor at will; however, its owner assumed responsibility for maintaining it. On the day of the incident, the neighbor was operating the tractor to mow a parcel of ground. Later that day, family members grew concerned of their loved one’s absence, and walked the fields to search for him. There they found the tractor, still running and wheels turning, but wedged against a stand of trees. Nearby, they found the neighbor’s body. Preliminary investigation revealed that the tractor’s seat had detached from the tractor and that the neighbor had fallen off and into the towed mowing attachment.

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Distracted Driving: Was Texting and Driving Involved in the Collision?


Timothy R. Primrose, Mobile Forensic Analyst

Case Synopsis: A southbound commercial tractor-trailer was in the process of turning left onto a general access roadway as a northbound passenger vehicle approached. As the tractor-trailer turned left, the tractor portion crossed the northbound lane of travel and its trailer straddled the northbound lane of travel. A collision occurred while the right side of the left-turning tractor-trailer was exposed to the oncoming passenger vehicle, and the passenger vehicle traveled underneath the trailer before coming to rest. Unfortunately, the operator of the passenger vehicle sustained severe injuries from the crash and did not survive.

Analysis: The iPhone 6 that belonged to the operator of the passenger vehicle was examined to see if cell phone usage was a contributing factor in the collision. The forensic analyst followed proper protocols and placed the mobile device in airplane mode prior to conducting a forensically sound acquisition. The mobile device did not have visible damage and it was not locked with a passcode. The investigator extracted, reviewed and analyzed data respective to the time frame of the collision. Review of a timeline of events proved that the iPhone 6 was not used immediately preceding or during the time of the incident.

Timothy R. Primrose, Mobile Forensic Analyst with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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