Automobile Accident Investigation and Reconstruction Resources for Investigators

Accident investigation

In general, an accident is defined as – An unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury. An automobile (or car) accident is defined as – a crash involving road objects or other vehicles, which sometimes cause serious property damage or physical injury.

Thousands of crashes occur every day. Some of those crashes, especially those that involve a fatality or bodily injury, will require the services of an investigator to conduct a thorough accident investigation and reconstruction.

What is an accident reconstruction?

Vehicular accident reconstructions are often conducted by specialized units in law enforcement agencies or private consultants, in an attempt to answer questions about automobile accidents. Questions may often include:

  • Who was driving the vehicle and who were the passengers (if any)?
  • Which party or parties were breaking the law? This may include an illegal drive, improper vehicle or equipment, driving outside of one’s lane, and more.
  • Where were the injured victims seated at the time of the crash? Were they wearing a seat belt at the time?
  • How fast were the vehicles traveling? Were either of the vehicles exceeding the speed limit?
  • What were the weather conditions and the local environment? Did the weather contribute to unsafe road conditions? Was it difficult to see at the time?
  • What were the road conditions? Was there heavy traffic at the time?
  • Was anyone wearing a seat belt?
  • Through the process of accident investigation and reconstruction, a rigorous process is followed to gather all of the pertinent data associated with the crash. The data is then analyzed to help support conclusions and to assist in the assessment of legal liability in civil lawsuits. Experts are often called upon to present their findings in a court of law.

Research Websites

Accident Reconstruction Network (ARC) – The largest Internet web site related to the industry. They serve as an excellent resource for all areas of accident reconstruction. Their website provides research, news, expert discussion groups, networking events, products and services, expert witness directory, book store, education services directory, police department directory and a member’s only section that provides valuable online databases and tools to assist in daily requirements.

Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction – ACTAR was founded by and exists for the benefit of the community, as represented by the membership of the participating professional organizations. ATCAR promotes, within the legal and scientific community, a recognition of the minimum standards established by the NHTSA study, as well as those developed by an ongoing review of the latest technology and trends in the profession.

Government Agencies

  • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST-R) – The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST-R) is part of the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST). It encompasses all of the program offices, statistics and research activities previously administered by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration. In January 2014, the U.S. Congress transferred the programs into OST to improve research collaboration and coordination, while still maintaining the integrity and impartiality of transportation statistical data. This helps to ensure that research activities and budgetary resources across the Department are fully aligned with the Department’s strategic goals and key interest areas.
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) – The Department of Transportation was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966. The Department’s first official day of operation was April 1, 1967. Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future. The United States Department of Transportation website provides access to helpful resources in aviation, highways and bridges, automobiles, railroads, maritime and much more.
  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) – The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation that supports State and local governments in the design, construction, and maintenance of the Nation’s highway system (Federal Aid Highway Program) and various federally and tribal owned lands (Federal Lands Highway Program). Through financial and technical assistance to State and local governments, the Federal Highway Administration is responsible for ensuring that America’s roads and highways continue to be among the safest and most technologically sound in the world.
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – The NHTSA was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 and is dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety. It works to help prevent car crashes and their related costs to both human life and financial expenses.

Other Websites

  • Truck Safety Coalition– The Truck Safety Coalition is an organization that is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.
  • Highway Loss Data Institute – The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries and property damage — from crashes on the nation’s roads. The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) shares and supports this mission through scientific studies of insurance data representing the human and economic losses resulting from the ownership and operation of different types of vehicles and by publishing insurance loss results by vehicle make and model. Both organizations are wholly supported by auto insurers and insurance associations.
  • Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company– Provides a variety of legal books, legal guides, and other media
  • Underride Network- The Underride Network is an organization of truck safety experts and victim/survivor volunteers working to educate the public and industry to the dangers of truck and trailer underride crashes and to promote the crash compatibility of all motor vehicles.

Traffic Accident Investigation and Reconstruction Books

Private investigators can use accident investigation and reconstruction books to learn about the science of the investigative process. Investigating and reconstructing traffic crashes can be a complex process, so it is important to gain as much knowledge as possible about the process and tools involved. The following books provide helpful information to help you become an expert by increasing your knowledge and guide you through the advanced techniques, technology and tools used by the experts. Using these books and manuals will help you learn such things as:

  • What qualifies as a car wreck and even a fender-bender?
  • How to reconstruct the scene from top to bottom
  • How to analyze data and interpret results
  • The latest tools, software and apps to help you conduct in-depth analyses to understand the true cause behind the wreck
  • How to create detailed reports and presentations for your investigative clients
  • Where to go for training and continuing education
  • Where to find jobs and employment in the field

List of Recommended Books for Detectives and Police Officers

  • Vehicular Accident Investigation and Reconstruction – This book focuses on helping you develop the skills, education and tools necessary to become a specialist in the field. If you’re new to the field, this book is a great place to start to learn the basics. It’s also a great book to keep on your shelf as a reference tool.
  • Engineering Analysis of Vehicular Accidents – This book explains the application of using engineering skills, methods and judgment to analyze information. It teaches you how to select the best methods of analysis given the type of situation. This book is good for detectives and police officers who are interested in gaining more advanced skills and techniques for evaluating the true cause behind car wrecks.
  • Basic Guide to Accident Investigation and Loss Control (Wiley Basic Guide Series, Volume 3) – This book provides helpful case studies and real world examples to help private investigators understand the principles and techniques of investigating automobile accidents. The book explains how private eyes can build a investigation tool kit, how to take scene photos, how to properly gather, store and categorize evidence from the scene and how to leverage specialized analysis techniques.
  • Modern Accident Investigation and Analysis – This book divides the overall process into three individual phases: preparation and planning, methods of analysis and report, and how to take corrective action. The guide also provides a helpful section on the legal aspects involved in the process.
  • Evidence in Traffic Crash Investigation And Reconstruction: Identification, Interpretation And Analysis of Evidence, And the Traffic Crash Investigation And Reconstruction Process – Provides information on identifying evidence, analyzing and interpreting the results. Great for private detectives, police officers and crime scene investigators.


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