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Accident Reconstruction

Drunk Driving AccidentCalifornia driving under the influence (DUI) cases involving accident, injury, or death requires a sophisticated defense strategy. A California DUI defense attorney who specializes in DUI accident cases must use an independent expert to recreate the events immediately preceding the accident and unearth evidence which may be favorable to the person arrested and accused of driving under the influence (DUI) in order to prevent a serious felony DUI or misdemeanor DUI conviction.

Notably, thousands of accidents occur throughout the California every day. Most are caused by the failure of people, motor vehicles, to behave or react as expected. Some occur because of faulty highway or roadway design. Others are caused by poor signage or lighting.

If the accident occurs after the motorist has consumed an alcoholic beverage, the California Highway Patrol or local police officer will usually conclude the accident was caused by the fact that the driver had been driving under the influence (DUI) or diving with a blood or breath alcohol level at or above the legal limit (DUI).

Accident investigations are intended to determine how and why accidents occur. However, the California Highway Patrol or local police officers are not without bias. Police reports and diagrams may reveal points of impact and other key factors. However, police reports may tell only one side or an incomplete version of the events. By using the information gained through an independent accident investigation, and exposing the weaknesses and possible bias of a police accident investigation following a DUI arrest it is possible to secure a better result for a person accused of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving with a blood or breath alcohol level at or above the legal limit (DUI).

The main objective of an accident reconstructionist (which is a highly trained accident investigator) is to recreate the events leading up to the accident and the circumstances of the collision itself, thereby determining whether the crash could have been avoided. If the accident could not have been avoided, then drinking prior to the accident or even driving under the influence (DUI) or with a blood alcohol level at or above the legal limit (DUI) cannot be said to have caused the collision.

It's essential for the lawyer and the accident reconstructionist to examine the accident scene and the vehicles involved in the accident as quickly as possible. Skid marks and other crucial evidence begin to disappear immediately after the accident occurred. An experienced accident investigator and reconstructionist will take photographs of the vehicles and the crash scene and preserve any evidence which may have been overlooked by California Highway Patrol or local police officer and that may be helpful to the defense. Measurements of the accident scene also will help reconstruct the circumstances of the collision.

DUI AccidentAlso, an experienced accident reconstructionist will study every detail, including weather conditions, road conditions, traffic patterns, lighting, etc. Skid marks are especially telling because they show whether drivers reacted to imminent danger or were unaware of the impending accident. Scuff marks on vehicles also can reveal a great deal of information about the dynamics of the collision.

Additionally, an accident investigator or reconstructionist will carefully examine the vehicles involved and explore whether there have been any safety recalls that contributed to the crash. Examining the vehicles' headlights, brake lights, and other equipment will establish whether the vehicles' safety features were functioning properly at the time of the accident. Additionally, it is important to examine any traffic signal devices to determine whether they were functioning properly and were visible at the time of the accident.

The importance of an independent accident reconstruction when defending a DUI case involving accident, injury or death cannot be overemphasized. Police and prosecutors will gather every shred of evidence that points to the DUI defendant's guilt. An independent expert may locate and gather overlooked evidence that pointing to the driver’s innocence. A California criminal defense attorney with experience defending DUI cases will use an experienced accident reconstructionist to uncover evidence that aids in a driver's defense.

Lawyers who specialize in DUI defense at the highest level seek to counter such claims made by the District Attorney prosecuting a DUI case or the arresting officers. In all cases, it is critical to retain an independent accident investigator or accident reconstructionist. In any DUI accident case the use of experts is necessary to reconstruct the scene of the accident and establish the possible or probable cause of the accident.

Ethical experts will try to determine the most probable scenario that led to the accident. Operator or operational factors are the major cause of 90% of auto accidents. Information, including statements, photographs, skid marks, roadway factors, and the laws of physics are used to analyze the dynamics of the collision. The most important evidence will be physical evidence in the form of photos and measurements of the scene often taken by police or private investigators at the scene DUI injury cases. A diagram can be prepared showing the area of impact and positions where the vehicles came to rest.

Most accident scenes will include preimpact and post impact skid, scuff and gauging of the roadway. Photographs are sometimes taken by law enforcement officers at these DUI accident scenes, but these typically depict only the areas which will point to the culpability of the driver arrested for driving under the influence or driving with a blood alcohol level at or above the legal limit. The vehicles themselves will contain valuable clues as to speed, direction of travel and even whether the drivers had their headlights on at the time of the collision.

DUI Accident InvestigationSurprisingly, the eyewitness testimony is the most unreliable, but most damning evidence against the driver arrested for driving under the influence or driving with a blood alcohol level at or above the legal limit. These statements will be examined for their corroborative value and will be weighed against the physical evidence. Notably, the physical evidence can’t and won’t lie.

Roadway factors or geometrics refer to the road operating environment. An analysis of a roadway may include the roadside design, the frictional properties, construction materials, wear, width, cross-slope, super-elevation, horizontal and vertical curvature, maintenance, ride quality, average daily traffic, traffic mix, designed use, and structural integrity. Documentation of the roadway environment is crucial in any DUI collision reconstruction cases. Often the roadway itself is a contributing factor in the collision.

Poor pavement and shoulder conditions can play a role in the occurrence of an accident which results in a DUI arrest. Bumps, potholes, pavement roughness, and pavement edge drop-off are just a few of the pavement conditions that could cause difficulty for the drivers. There are standard roadway maintenance practices and regulations that cities and counties must follow by to create a safe operating environment for drivers.

Friction is the resisting force of motion between two surfaces when they are in contact. The friction generated between any two surfaces is important in reconstruction since friction converts kinetic energy to heat, noise and deformation and damage of materials. Friction analysis can determine the speed of a car. In most car accident cases the friction is between the roadway and the tire, however it is also present in metal to pavement contact, and metal to soil contact in rollover collisions and in motorcycle pre- and post- impact trajectories. Skid is the transfer of superheated tire compound to the roadway due to friction.

Weather conditions are usually noted in the California Highway Patrol or local police report. These can be verified through reference to local newspapers and weather services. A record of these conditions helps establish whether slippery or wet roads affected the accident. Road conditions are critical to establishing the drag and speed at the time of the accident.

Lighting is the most important issue involving accidents at night. Many people overestimate their seeing ability at night and very often the headlights are insufficient to reveal potential collisions in time for the operator to avoid them. The materials used in the construction of roadway surfaces reflect light in different ways. The road surface has a significant effect on the drivers’ ability to recognize objects, vehicles and pedestrians on the road. Ambient lighting, headlights, moisture conditions and other factors make up a complex set of conditions that determine whether a sign, traffic signal, or other object is visible.

Pedestrians are often struck by cars at night because the road is not adequately lit, the pedestrian is wearing dark clothing or not walking within a crosswalk as required by the California Vehicle Code. Irrespective of whether the driver has been arrested for DUI, it can often be established that the driver was not at fault because he or she could not have seen the pedestrian until it was too late. Sometimes pedestrians themselves are under the influence at the time of the accident.

Oftentimes a pedestrian can often see the approaching car long before the driver can see the pedestrian. Additionally, skid marks must be measured in order to determine the vehicle's speed and stopping distance. Without skid marks it can be difficult to determine the speed, but the total distance the pedestrian traveled can be helpful. The height of a leg fracture can be used to determine if the car was braking at the time of impact because of the weight transfer and dipping of the vehicle’s front end when the brakes are applied in emergency situations.

Establishing the driving record of the operators in an accident can help establish liability of the other party to an accident due to poor skill. Even if arrested for DUI, the other driver’s DMV record may include information which may mitigate the consequences or defend against a DUI charge.

Examination of the nearby traffic control devices is critical, especially if one operator ignored or is accused of ignoring or not seeing a sign or signal. Experts can establish the timing in seconds of the delay between a set of lights turning red and the other turning green. Whether the view was obstructed and the placement of the signs may also be helpful. Compliance with state and federal regulations and conformity with the rules and regulations must be determined in a DUI case involving a collision. Signage, traffic control devices, highway layout and design are evaluated using the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and the rules of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Accident reconstructionists investigate and evaluate the design of various crash cushions, guard rail systems, median barrier systems and break-away roadside objects to determine compliance with local, state and federal guidelines. This is a critical investigative step in a DUI accident case involving stationary objects.

Two cars involved in an accident at an intersection must be examined for damage and contact match points when established, reveal precisely how the vehicles made contact in order to establish the angle that existed between the two cars at the time of the collision. This angle and the separation angles can be used to determine the speed of each car at impact.

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