Coordinates & Camera Angles ; Don’t take shortcuts with forensics Jay Gallagher
Introduction <ul><li>Frontline claims adjusting today is a highly specialized career and with that specialization comes a focus that’s perhaps too narrow. Often we never get out to see the forest because we’re only trained to look at one kind of individual tree. </li></ul><ul><li>Because of our specialization, we (as an industry) rationalize that accident scene investigation proficiency is not as relevant to our jobs as some of our other specialty disciplines. </li></ul><ul><li>Consequently, accident scene investigation is rarely taught to front line claims adjusters. Perhaps it’s because of the litigious society in which we live, but the trend within the industry is to rely on experts on complicated cases. Though expert retention is fine for high end and complex claims, what does it say about our industry when we don’t pay close attention to what actually happened at an accident scene on rank and file claims? What happens on those cases where an expert isn’t retained until late in the game? </li></ul>
<ul><li>This presentation will examine advanced accident scene investigation techniques for the layman that can be adapted to an adjuster’s daily claims practice. The techniques demonstrated today can be used to preserve the data at the accident scene until an expert actually is retained. Without accurately preserved evidence, hiring an expert can be too little, too late. </li></ul><ul><li>Today’s presentation will also attempt to outline just what the interested layman can determine through a thorough examination of an accident scene. </li></ul><ul><li>The Cartesian Coordinate System can be used to document vehicular accidents, property claims; including:, structural collapse, fire scenes, homeowner thefts and even hail claims. It lends itself well to virtually any type of objective investigation. The Cartesian Coordinate System is the data gathering approach of choice among professional investigators and reconstructionists. </li></ul>
Overview <ul><li>Accident Scene Investigation should be just as much a part of the adjuster’s skill repertoire as policy knowledge, negotiation, quantum evaluation and statement taking. </li></ul><ul><li>Thorough accident scene investigation allows an adjuster to not only secure and preserve evidence and data until an expert can take a look at it, but it also allows the adjuster to knowledgeably apply comparative negligence to liability decisions and to negotiate from a position of strength </li></ul>Weather Alcohol Defect Fault Reaction Fraud Fatigue Visibility Speed <ul><li>The de-emphasis on accident scene investigation has allowed fraudulent claimants broad latitude in the types of fraud they can commit. </li></ul><ul><li>When adjusters only look at one piece of the pie, they often miss tell tale signs and red flags that lead to fraud and/or embellishment </li></ul><ul><li>In today’s marketplace, where estimates of fraud range from an artificially low 5% to 65%, based on your definition of fraud. </li></ul>
Vocabulary <ul><li>Glossary of terms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Origin </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Abscissa </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ordinate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>EOP (Edge of pavement) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Coefficient of Friction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wheelbase </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wheel track </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Overhangs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nomograph </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CAD </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Crush </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Skid mark </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Yaw mark </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scuff mark </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gouge </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Point of Impact </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Point of Maximum Engagement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tangency </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tow out </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Critical Speed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ABS </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MIST </li></ul></ul>
The Cartesian Coordinate System of Measurement <ul><li>Rene Descartes – Rather brilliant but sickly academic who lived in the late 1500’s, early 1600’s. Probably the forerunner of the modern day “slacker” because he had a habit of sleeping till 10 am everyday and then working late into the night. Today, he’d be the quintessential computer geek. </li></ul><ul><li>While bedridden, Descartes watched a fly crawl upon his bedroom wall and realized that by taking measurements from any two adjacent walls, he could exactly fix the fly’s position on the wall. </li></ul><ul><li>Descartes system was adopted by mathematicians the world over. It’s been adapted for several different uses </li></ul><ul><li>Descartes was also a philosopher of note and is considered the father of modern philosophy. He sought to scientifically explain everything and began operating from the perspective that he doubted the existence of anything he could not prove. Since he realized that he could not doubt himself, since he was, himself, thinking, he extrapolated that he did, in fact, exist. Working from that premise, he sought to mathematically explain the world around him. </li></ul><ul><li>His approach is the basis for all scientific inquiry. He carried the concept forward and published his “Discourse on the scientific method.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Cogito Ergo Sum” – the latin phrase which means “I think, therefore I am…” is his proof that he exists. Based on his penchant for doubting everything, he might well have added “an investigator” to that phrase. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Rene Descartes </li></ul>Descartes late sleeping lasted throughout his life. He briefly changed his ways when his royal patron wanted him to help her to learn algebra at 6 am. While walking back and forth to her castle on cold damp mornings, he caught pneumonia and died. Descartes is called the father of modern philosophy because he was the first to reject theology and apply the scientific method.
In the Field Applying the cartesian coordinate system to a roadway is easy; view the roadsurface as a plane and use a painted marking as the ordinate
Adapting the Cartesian system to curved roadways
Measuring a curved road in the field Applying the cartesian coordinate system to a curved roadway is handled the same was as on a straight road; view the roadsurface as a plane and use a painted marking as a curved ordinate and measurements are made the same way
What you need to get started Measuring devices - Measuring wheels are useful tools, but be careful of using small diameter wheels, because of their notorious inaccuracy. Use a large wheel for longer measurements. Small wheels are fine for short distances. Multiple tape measures and a good oversized clipboard are recommended as are nomograph templates. Sears sells measuring wheels and tapes. The templates and clipboard can be purchased from engineering supply stores.
Pictures are worth 1000’s of words Invest in good quality camera equipment and an appropriate bag to carry gear in. In addition to photo equipment, this bag holds 2 100 foot tapes, two 25 foot tapes, a pocket rod, two 50lb scales, a plumb bob, chalk line, an 8mm camcorder, a digital camera, a panorama camera, a GPS device, an inclinometer, level, compass, light meter, marking chalk, bright orange safety vests, and rain gear. Like a Boy Scout, a good accident investigator is always prepared.
Playing in Traffic without getting hurt Effective accident scene investigation requires you to actually get in the street and that should only be done with an eye toward safety. Wear appropriate footwear, high visibility clothing and always maintain a lookout for the flow of traffic. Ideally, you would work with a partner, but in situations where that’s not practical, you can accomplish much the same thing by scoping out your accident scene first and then making most of your measurements along the shoulder, only venturing out into traffic when necessary. The photos on the following five pages illustrate how to conduct most of your measurements from the shoulder.
Use a large measuring wheel for the longer measurements. Start measuring from a permanent object, which is not likely to change. Above, measurements are initiated from an expansion joint
From the expansion joint, measure along the fog line or the EOP to the item you wish to record, such as a skid mark, or a gouge mark. Above, the item is the start of a skid
Once you’ve found the item you want to record, measuring from the reference point at the origin, use the smaller wheel to take an abcissal measurement out to it. This would give the start of the skid mark two measurements
With the large wheel, continue with your ordinate measurement to the end of the skid mark.
At the termination of the skid, use the small wheel to make another abcissal measurement out to the termination of the skids. There will be two measurements for this point also.
<ul><li>Once you’ve measured the scene, it’s time to measure the involved vehicles. </li></ul><ul><li>Measure the gross length, gross width, wheelbase, wheel track and the overhangs. </li></ul><ul><li>The most effective way to measure a badly damaged vehicle is to use a jig, whereby a rectangular outline is established and measurements are made back into the vehicle to the deepest points of the crush. Using those measurements, it’s possible to figure a speed at impact using the stiffness coefficients and depth of crush to determine what force was necessary to cause the damage displayed. </li></ul><ul><li>For Minor Impact/Soft Tissue measurements, it’s helpful to have an engineer’s ruler in the photo to show the scope of the damage, or lack thereof. Also, in MIST files, measure and photo the undercarriage of the vehicle, particularly the impact absorbers. </li></ul>Vehicular Measurement
Recording Crush Data When measuring a vehicle, use the undamaged end as the origin and measure toward the damaged end. In the illustration at left, the front end of the vehicle is used as the reference and the measurements are made toward the rear end. The length and width of the body are recorded, as are the wheelbase, wheel tracks, overhangs and door frames.
Photographing the damage Engineer’s rule in photo to show scale and bumper/damage height
Additional relevant photographs Measuring impact absorbers from underneath the vehnicle. It’s easier to photo and measure the impact absorber you’re interested in from the opposite side of the vehicle
Figuring Speeds from Skids & Other “scientific stuff” <ul><li>Speed calculations aren’t difficult. The basic formula has been freely published for some time. Reference books list charts and tables that can be used to quickly guesstimate a vehicle’s speed from skids. However, as helpful as those guides are, it pays to be thorough. The guides don’t factor in human reaction nor are the frictional coefficients as accurate as they could be. The only true way to determine the coefficient of friction on a given roadway is to test it. </li></ul><ul><li>To test for a frictional coefficient, a skid pad is commonly used. The skid pad is weighted and has tire tread on the bottom of it. The weight of the pad is determined and then the pad is dragged across the roadway to be measured. The amount of force required to move the skid pad is then divided by the actual weight of the pad and the resultant ratio is the frictional coefficient. </li></ul><ul><li>For instance, a 30 lb skid pad which required only 15 lbs of force to move is on a relative slick roadway, with a frictional coefficient of .50. </li></ul><ul><li>The formula for determining speed from skids is: </li></ul>Delta V = 30 (d) f Delta V = Change in velocity, d = length of skid marks; f = frictional coefficient
Skid Pad Usage Using a spring/cylinder scale, measure the weight of your skid pad.
Proper skid pad technique Using the same scale, pull the sled laterally and record how much force is required. Divide this number by the weight of the skid to determine the coefficient of friction. Be careful NOT to life UP when you drag the sled. Be sure to drag it laterally, back to you.
Case Study I – Police Error (Duhon v Landstar Trucking Co.) <ul><li>Young, pretty coed involved in accident with female truck driver. She suffered a broken arm, a broken collar bone and a forehead laceration, bleeding profusely. </li></ul><ul><li>Young State Trooper, enamored with pretty coed, writes up accident report favorably to her, ignoring evidence of her negligence </li></ul><ul><li>Detailed use of the Cartesian Coordinate System enabled us to get the trooper back out to the accident scene to take another look at the it and, ultimately, got the truck driver’s citation for “careless and reckless” dismissed and the claimant was ultimately ticketed for unsafe lane change. </li></ul>
Lineup suggested by evidence Based on physical data, we determined that the alignment was like this at the time of impact. Coincidentally, the claimant was executing a left hand turn from the right lane to reach a median cut-through because she missed her exit off - ramp
Gouge Mark missed by Trooper, inside skid mark
Undercarriage Measurements Inspection of the undercarriage of the plaintiff vehicle, show that only ONE undercarriage piece made contact with the asphalt
Trooper’s second theory Trooper’s Second Version
Primary Direction of Force – claimant crush damage
Final Resolution <ul><li>After convincing trooper to return to the scene, was successful in pointing out evidence which he failed to consider. This caused him to re-work the accident scene with his supervisor, and caused the citation to be dismissed against the insured driver. Claimant driver was ultimately ticketed for careless and reckless operation. Had we not used the Cartesian Coordinate System to document all evidence, debris, skid marks, yaw marks, vehicular damage and other pertinent evidence, we would not have been able to persuade the trooper to rework the accident scene. </li></ul>
Case Study II – A leggy stripper gets her kicks (The Centerfold Lounge) Using the Cartesian Coordinate System for Premises Liability Investigations <ul><li>Claimant was asked on several occasions not to touch a dancer. He ignored the requests and continued to try to do so. </li></ul><ul><li>As he was being asked to leave, he lunged to touch her one more time; unfortunately, however, the dancer was spinning around a pole and inadvertently kicked him squarely in the mouth, breaking his jaw </li></ul><ul><li>Measurements, including the stage, a protective rail and the stripper’s leg revealed that the ONLY way the patron could have gotten kicked is if he leaned into the literal “no-man’s” land, which is prohibited by local ordinance. </li></ul>
Look,but don’t touch <ul><li>All available witnesses were located and statements were secured. (This was no small task. Most of the witnesses were dancers who left to pursue career opportunities at other strip clubs. Due diligence mandated that ALL local clubs were scoured for potential witnesses) </li></ul><ul><li>All statements were in agreement that the danger was swinging around the pole at the end of the stage when the patron was kicked in the mouth. </li></ul><ul><li>Using the pole as a starting point, all of the measurements were then plotted in CAD to recreate the accident and determine that the accident could not have occurred as the plaintiff claimed. </li></ul>
Case Study III – Horsing around down on the farm (Orthman Manufacturing) Cartesian Coordinate System and Products Liability Investigations <ul><li>Plaintiff indicated that a 7-disc tiller’s marker arm broke at its point of attachment and fell, striking him on the back of his head causing him to, in turn, strike a piece of equipment that he was working on, breaking out all of his front teeth, breaking his jaw and his upper palate. </li></ul><ul><li>Detailed statements and measurements were taken and used to plot the accident scene. </li></ul><ul><li>Based on the statements and the factual layout of the area of the accident, we were able to determine that the incident had arisen from horseplay and that the marker arm broke not from a defect, but from inadvertent contact with a stationary object during horseplay </li></ul>
Case Study IV – Deadmen tell no tales (B&N Construction v SAIA)
Using damage evidence to determine alignment at impact
Case Study V – It’s the little things that count (Goodman v Parker Trucking) <ul><li>Claimant was traveling on a two-lane highway and stopped to use her cell phone and to make a U-turn. She did so suddenly in front of an 18-wheeler under a full load of grain. </li></ul><ul><li>The driver took extraordinary evasive action and avoided killing the claimant, but jack-knifed, overturned and totaled out his vehicle. </li></ul><ul><li>In a pure comparative negligence state, the claimant alleged that the jack-knifing and overturn were examples of negligence due to improper lookout and excessive speed. She sought to pin 30-50 percent liability on the truck driver. </li></ul><ul><li>Following a detailed examination of the scene and some scenario modeling, we determined that the truck driver took evasive action at his absolute earliest possible opportunity, saving the claimant’s life. </li></ul><ul><li>Had he been dilatory for even 1/100 th of a second, the point of impact would have been such that the claimant would not have survived the accident. </li></ul><ul><li>Once she was shown the facts and figures, she became visibly shaken and a few minutes later politely and apologetically withdrew her claim. </li></ul>
The insured tractor was traveling 70 mph or 105 ft per second. (70 * 1.467) Based on the projected travel of both vehicles, a 1/10 th of a second delay would put the point of impact at the left rear tire, in a classic T-bone collision. It would not have been survivable. A 1/100 th of a second delay in braking would put the point of impact on the driver’s side door, equally unsurvivable.
Case Study – Keeping it in the family (Coushatta, La. Staged Accident Ring) <ul><li>Detailed measurements of two vehicles revealed that a fact pattern claimed by the insured and multiple occupants of the claimant vehicle couldn’t have happened. Specifically, damage to the claimant’s driver’s side door didn’t match the height of the insured’s front bumper. </li></ul><ul><li>Additional background checks performed after inspection revealed that the claimants and the insured were related. </li></ul><ul><li>A chance assignment from another carrier revealed that a few weeks after the initial accident, the claimant driver reported having a collision wherein he struck the insured at the same intersection. Most of the original claimants in the first accident were passengers in the insured’s vehicle in the second accident. </li></ul><ul><li>Additional investigation with SIU Departments at Allstate and State Farm turned up nearly 50 additional claims involving one or more of the original involved parties. </li></ul><ul><li>Subsequent investigation revealed that 68 individuals including “witnesses.” repair facilities and others were involved in 114 claims totaling nearly 2 million dollars that were fraudulent in nature. As of the time of this presentation, 16 had been sentenced to jail time and another 14 had been indicted by a Federal Grand Jury. </li></ul><ul><li>I don’t have pictures or diagrams to show you today because the FBI has my file… </li></ul>
Night Time Visibility Studies Digital Cameras are excellent for night-time visibility studies. CCD lenses work like the rods and cones of your eyes. There’s no guesswork regarding aperture openings and exposure times. In the photo above, the plaintiff said she stepped into a hole in the grassy part of the median and broke her ankle because she couldn’t see that it wasn’t paved. - Use a tripod - Suppress your flash - Resultant photo will show the actual lighting conditions and areas of shadows - Works best when there’s SOME ambient light
Panoramas and other non-standard photographic techniques Digital images can be stitched together to make Virtual Reality panoramas that you can actually use to “place” the jury at the accident scene without ever leaving the court room.. Digital images can also be stitched together to make long continuous shots and are particularly useful when coupled with overhead photography.
Summary <ul><li>Accident Scene Investigation can be conducted effectively by laymen if a scientific and uniform approach is employed </li></ul><ul><li>The Cartesian Coordinate System can be applied to the investigation of any accident scene </li></ul><ul><li>Claims that you currently have would benefit from implementing the Cartesian Coordinate System of measurement and investigation </li></ul><ul><li>An adjuster is no substitute for a bona fide expert, however, the adjuster can greatly improve the company’s defensive posture by aggressively investigating and documenting the scene, preserving the evidence until and if an expert is needed. </li></ul>
Where to Get More Information <ul><li>TRAINING: The Traffic Institute, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill; Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; University of Michigan </li></ul><ul><li>LITERATURE: Claims Magazine has a wealth of articles in the archives section, TARO (The Accident Reconstruction Origin Website) is the premier online resource for investigative information. If you look at no other reference, check out TARO </li></ul><ul><li>Check the handout for URLs and Titles </li></ul><ul><li>This handout is an amalgam of three prior articles which can be found at the Claims Magazine Website. </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.claimsmag.com/issues/june/c amera.asp </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.claimsmag.com/March00/Biomech.asp </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.claimsmag.com/october99/video.asp </li></ul>