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Accident reconstruction.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then imagine the value of a picture that saves millions of dollars by visually reconstructing an accident and helping to defend a claim. Although accident reconstruction and demonstrative evidence have a reputation for being expensive, they can certainly prove useful in cases such as a serious injury where the threat of a lawsuit can linger for years after the accident.

At a recent session of the Southeastern Regional Education Conference, Jim Williams, an attorney with Roberts Stevens & Cogburn in Asheville, N.C., pointed out the value of a plan that immediately deals with accidents and helps assemble data. "The risk manager is one of the first to know about a serious accident after it happens and should get to the product or accident as quickly as possible," said Mr. Williams. For starters, assembling information and taking photographs can be very useful in cases where a lawsuit could be brought after two or three years. At that point, there is no going back to examine the evidence.

Charles Manning, Jr., president of Accident Reconstruction Analysis Inc. (ARAI), concurred. ARAI takes the initial evidence and uses it to reconstruct what actually happened at the scene of an accident. They use metallurgical testing, failure analysis and technical investigation of machinery to produce their results. "It is possible to get accurate measurements, velocity, final resting places of vehicles and victims," he said. ARAI reconstructs accidents such as the case of a sailboat that hit power lines and caused the electrocution of its passengers. By reconstructing the situation with the same tide and wind conditions and the same type of boat, Mr. Manning's company was able to show that an experienced sailor would have been able to get the craft out of trouble. By videotaping the reconstructed incident from a variety of angles, Mr. Manning preserved evidence that could be of extreme importance to the power company in the event of future lawsuits. Auto accidents, products liability and elevator malfunctioning are other examples of cases that lend themselves to this type of analysis. As Mr, Manning points out, "Risk managers must go out and get the evidence, but it is not necessary to do the expensive computer work in the beginning. Just get the evidence, do a little hand calculation and be prepared for a future problem."

Complementing the discussion, Thomas A. Jenkins, of Ledford Legal Communications, presented the value of computer animation for courtroom presentation. Noting that "statistics have shown only 5 percent of the population understands simple scientific evidence," Mr. Jenkins said it is vital to help people such as jurors understand difficult concepts.

The animation can be used to support expert witness testimony and explain complex technical matter in cases such as medical malpractice, environmental disaster, destroyed evidence and accident reconstruction. When one considers that, on average, people retain only 32 percent of what they see after 72 hours, it is clear how computer animation in combination with accident reconstruction and accurate initial evidence can greatly aid risk managers in defending a claim - even years after the accident.


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Title Annotation:23rd Annual Risk and Insurance Management Society Southeastern Regional Conference; and computer animation useful tools for risk management
Author:Christine, Brian
Publication:Risk Management
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Previous Article:Federal vs. state regulation.
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