motor-vehicle-accidentMost people take one driver’s test as a teenager and have only their vision checked every so many years when making their license renewal.  With so little training so long ago, we can hardly claim to be experts on the rules of the road, can we?

According to the US Census bureau, in 2009 there were 10.8 million motor vehicle accidents.  Statistics can be categorized by type of vehicle and whether involving nonoccupants of vehicles such as pedestrians and pedalcyclists.  The National Transportation and Safety Department even hosts a districted driving website, defining those activities that may not be illegal but which may contribute to the more than 385,000 personal injuries in motor vehicle crashes involving eating, talking to passengers, grooming, and adjusting the radio dial.

There are too many hazards of driving to make a comprehensive list.  The rear-end at a stop sign.  The two-car collision at the intersection.  Hitting a pedestrian.  The proverbial auto accident attorney ad is probably the most common on the air.

Most motor vehicle accidents result in civil liability, and quite often an expert witness is involved.  On one level, the expert witness can express and explain the rules of the road.  For example, when two cars pull up to a four-way stop, at what appears to be the same time, with one going straight and one turning left, which car has the right of way?  The car accident expert witness remains up-to-date on vehicle and traffic law, and can provide guidance as soon as a case is undertaken on which driver should have done what and when.

On another level, the accident reconstruction expert witness can also help to decipher what happened at scenes with conflicting or missing testimony.  Evidence utilized by the accident reconstruction expert witness can include everything from skid marks to weather conditions to the type of vehicle involved.  These expert witnesses can also assist the trial attorney in creating diagrams and videos to assist judge and jury visualization and comprehension of testimony.

A currently trending top of debate within this field are the limitations that set in with age.  As our life expectancy has increased, various state legislatures are debating whether to retest drivers as they age and whether to have a cut-off age for driving.  These legislative inquiries can also become part of an expert witness testimony.  The vehicular accident expert witness is entitled to rely upon research in the field, laws and regulations, and even the legislative discourse.  Under a heading of “legislative intention,” the expert witness can pivot testimony at legislative hearings, legislative research documents, and even legislators’ position statements into the trial testimony.

By: Paloma A. Capanna