Automobile Accident Investigation and Reconstruction Resources for Investigators

Accident investigation

What is an automobile accident?

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.

Accident Reconstruction Websites

Following are websites that provide information on accident investigations and reconstruction:

Accident Investigation and Accident Reconstruction Books – View the latest automobile accident investigation and reconstruction books at

Accident Reconstruction Network – The Accident Reconstruction Network (ARC Network) is 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 accident reconstruction requirements.

Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction – ACTAR was founded by and exists for the benefit of the traffic accident investigation and reconstruction 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.


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