Posts Tagged ‘Crash Animation’

Defending Your Scene Diagrams in Court

As an investigator, you may often be called upon to present your findings in the courtroom in front of a skeptical jury and an attorney who would just love to prove you wrong.  Your diagrams of the scene are an important part of your investigation and you want to make sure you can prove they are completely accurate. So, what are some rules to follow for ensuring that your methodology for preparing a diagram and diagramming the scene itself will be credible enough to withstand courtroom scrutiny?

Crash Reconstructionist Uses Animations In Courtroom Presentations

The use of 3D crash diagrams and animations can make a huge difference in presenting the details of a crash, especially in the courtroom. Lorne Starks, retired from the LAPD and a veteran crash reconstructionist, investigates crashes all over the country.  The members of his California-based firm, D&S Investigations, have collectively investigated over 30,000 traffic collisions and have reconstructed and provided opinions on more than 8000 traffic collisions. He finds that deploying animations is an ideal way to explain the events of a crash.

Starks has given expert testimony in more than 275 court cases involving traffic accident reconstruction, accident causation, damage analysis, and collision factors. He knows what evidence to look for at a crash scene and how it must be depicted in a diagram and animation. Given his lengthy experience investigating crash scenes and offering court testimony, what does he see are his biggest challenges? “Most of them have to do with measurements and physical evidence,” Starks said. “We find most reports we get do not document enough of the physical evidence. The challenge we have is trying to come up with different points of impact or different types of physical evidence such as skid marks, gouges, and the point of rest. This can be difficult, especially at a busy intersection” Starks said.

When he finally gets to a crash scene to be investigated, the scene could be a couple of weeks to a year old. “When we get out there, we rely a lot on photographs, and then you’re looking at reference points in the roadway—a crack or a painted line—and from there we can measure and document debris and physical evidence.”

Crash Animation Now Available To All Investigators

Traditionally, 3D animations, or movies, of the events surrounding a crash were recognized as a powerful tool to help present a case in court. However, they were so expensive to produce that they were only feasible for high-profile cases where big budgets were involved. Recently, the development of easy-to-use, accurate, software for creating animations has changed all that. It is now possible for every crash investigator to produce animations of a crash, based on the evidence they found at the scene.

Just ask Bobby Jones, Assistant Chief of the Knox County-Knoxville, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, and a trained reconstructionist. Jones feels that animations are an important part of his courtroom presentations. Says Jones, “We’ll always need to have a static diagram to get a start (for presenting crash scene details). However, a jury these days can comprehend animation, and the retention is significantly higher than words and diagrams.” Also, Jones adds, “Anytime we can illustrate in motion, we capture the attention of the jury because juries are typically inclined to want to see technology.”

Jones uses The CAD Zone, Inc.’s Crash Zone diagramming software, one of the most popular and widely used forensic drawing software packages on the market. With The Crash Zone he can create his 2D diagrams, incorporating all the exact measurements he takes at the scene. The program contains easy-to-use tools for creating the 3D model and animations of the crash from any viewpoint.

Upgrade Your Court Presentations With Animation

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s worth the additional expense to upgrade your crash scene diagramming software, one expert responds, “Absolutely.” That expert is Bobby Jones of Bobby Jones Reconstruction of Knoxville, Tenn. For more than 25 years, Jones has been a trained crash reconstructionist and crime scene investigator, providing his expertise to private law firms, major trucking firms, insurance and government agencies, County Sheriffs, the State of Tennessee, and to prosecution and criminal defense clients.

The Crash Zone Includes Easy-to-Use Animation Tools

A major reason that Jones suggests upgrading your diagramming software is to get the animation features now offered in some software. Jones has been a longtime user of The Crash Zone, diagramming software from The CAD Zone, Inc. ( ) of Beaverton, Oregon. The Crash Zone is widely used among law enforcement professionals and crash scene investigators. It allows users to create realistic 2D and 3D diagrams of scenes. The latest version of The Crash Zone also features the ability to quickly create 2D and 3D animations of objects that are based on your exact measurements.

Motorcycle Officer Maps Crash Scenes

Sgt. Naccarato maps crash scenes from his motorcycle

Sgt. Naccarato taking a measurement.

Not too many years ago, Sgt. John Naccarato of the Clackamas County (OR), Sheriff’s Department was using a 25-foot tape measure and a notepad to measure and record data at a crash scene. “It was really time consuming,” Sgt. Naccarato recalls. “It took a couple of guys to get the measurements and we usually had to close the road for a lot longer time than we liked.

Once he had the measurements, Sgt. Naccarato used a software program that is specifically for creating crash scene diagrams, called The Crash Zone™, from The CAD Zone, Inc, of Beaverton, Oregon. The Crash Zone has all the tools one needs to draw accurate, detailed diagrams of the scene, both in 2D and 3D. Crash Zone is highly accurate and has multiple ways for the user to draw to their exact measurements, ensuring that the final diagram is a factual representation of the scene.