Proper Evidence Storage Security for the Vehicle… and the Litigator ::::
Steven M. Schorr, PE
A nighttime collision between an SUV and a motorcycle resulted in serious injuries to the motorcycle operator. After the police completed their investigation, including imaging the “event data” from the Airbag Control Module (ACM) (which in this case was limited to the speed of the SUV 5 seconds prior to the collision), the carrier for the SUV offered the vehicle to the plaintiff for inspection before being sent to the salvage yard. The plaintiff purchased the SUV for salvage costs and stored it at an indoor, secure, climate-controlled facility*, where the vehicle would be protected from the elements and could be inspected as needed. During the course of the litigation, issues of whether the SUV lights were operative; whether a passenger in the SUV was restrained; and the turning path of the SUV became important. Because the vehicle had been securely stored and protected, it allowed both sides to re-inspect the vehicle in light of the new and unexpected issues. The bulbs of the SUV were inspected to evaluate the filaments for “hot shock”, and the passenger side seatbelt and seatbelt system were inspected for evidence of use at the time of the collision.
In the short time the vehicle was stored, updated software became available that allowed engineers to revisit the ACM and re-image the data within the module. The updated software uncovered data within the vehicle’s computer system not previously retrievable, including steering data documenting the specific turning path of the vehicle leading to the collision. The additional case issue data, as well as the information garnered from the software updates, would not have been retrievable if the vehicle had not been properly preserved in a facility which allowed for safe storage and inspection. For additional information, please contact Steven M. Schorr, PE at experts@forensicDJS.com.
*(The vehicle was stored at the Forensic Storage and Technology Center [FSTC] in Huntingdon Valley, PA]