Accident Reconstruction Exhibits Combine Scale Model and Photography / by Jeff Drake

The driver of a 40-foot-long trailer truck was attempting to exit a parking lot and while maneuvering the truck around a tight left turn, backed the truck cab into a utility pole causing the pole to break and fall on the cab, injuring the driver. The truck subsequently plowed into the side of a nearby house.

                    Scale model in the pre-accident configuration 

                    Scale model in the pre-accident configuration 

The injured driver brought suite against the electric utility and phone company alleging the wires spanning two utility poles he drove beneath were too low and that his trailer had hit the wires, breaking the pole. There were no witnesses to the accident. Damage to the cab revealed a dented area on the right rear corner where the cab stuck the pole. 

                     Police photos of the accident scene

                     Police photos of the accident scene

The expert electrical engineers hired by the defendant wanted trial exhibits that could depict the accident scene three-dimensionally and proposed the idea of building a scale model to show the site, but wanted to show both before and after conditions. The solution was to build the model in the pre-accident configuration and photograph the truck driving under the wires and then deconstruct the model and create the post-accident configuration. The photographs were then used as trial exhibits to show the pre-accident conditions and the model illustrated the post-accident configuration.

                     Scale model in the post-accident configuration

                     Scale model in the post-accident configuration

The scale model was constructed from measurements taken of the parking lot, utility pole locations and two buildings that comprised the accident site. The scale tractor-trailer was built from dimensions taken of an exemplar tractor and trailer that were located by the engineers. The accident reconstruction, including pole and wire positions, was created from police photographs.

                     Close up view of the scale model in the post-accident configuration

                     Close up view of the scale model in the post-accident configuration