Motorcycle Accident Reconstruction
Motorcycle Accident Reconstruction and Forensic Engineering Analysis
Motorcycle accident reconstruction requires specialized training and a thorough understanding of the dynamics and operation of motorcycles. Veritech’s lead motorcycle expert has over 30 years of experience riding and racing motorcycles, which includes competing as a licensed professional rider in the AMA Supersport and Formula Extreme classes. In addition to his riding experience, our expert has 8 years of experience working in the Research and Development division of a major motorcycle manufacturer as a test and development engineer for power-sports vehicles such as motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs. This hands-on experience, combined with his degree in mechanical engineering, licensure as a Professional Engineer, and certification as a Forensic Engineer gives him unparalleled credentials and qualification in understanding the vehicle dynamics, physical damage, and rider actions associated with motorcycle accidents.
What is involved in a Motorcycle Accident Reconstruction?
The investigation and reconstruction of a motorcycle accident begins with a thorough analysis of the available physical evidence. The physical evidence associated with a motorcycle crash can often be analyzed in 4 distinct stages: the braking phase, sliding phase, impact phase, and post-impact-to-rest phase. Each of these stages present an accident reconstructionist with unique challenges, especially for those not intimately familiar with motorcycles.
1. The Braking Phase -
Motorcycles have historically come equipped with braking systems in which the front and rear brakes are operated independently; the front brake is actuated with the right hand while the rear brake is actuated with the right foot. As a result, tire skid marks that are associated with a motorcycle accident must be evaluated as originating from the front tire, the rear tire, or a combination of both. Proper evaluation of various characteristics of the tire mark such as skid length, width (and the change in width), intensity, direction, and striations are essential for the proper reconstruction of a motorcycle accident. As an example: a motorcycle can slow down about twice as fast with just the front brake as compared to just the rear brake. Therefore, if a tire mark is misinterpreted as originating from the front tire when it was actually deposited by the rear tire, then the calculated speed will be inaccurate.
2. The Sliding Phase -
In many motorcycle accidents, the motorcycle and rider will fall to the ground prior to contacting a stationary object or another vehicle. Once the vehicle falls to the ground, the crash sequence enters the sliding phase. During the sliding phase it is common for the motorcycle to deposit scratches and gouges in the roadway. These scratches and gouges must be evaluated as to their severity in order to understand the vehicle’s deceleration rate and to accurately calculate the corresponding loss of speed. Furthermore, analysis of the roadway surface (asphalt, concrete, gravel, etc.) as well as the surface condition (wet, dry, loose dirt, etc.) must be evaluated. Another point of consideration that is unique to motorcycles is that when a motorcycle falls to the ground it is common for the rider to separate from the motorcycle. As such, the rider’s motion and trajectory can be, and should be, evaluated separately from the motorcycle.
3. The Impact Phase -
The impact stage of a motorcycle accident typically results in physical damage to both the subject motorcycle as well as the object which made contact with the motorcycle. A proper motorcycle accident reconstruction takes into consideration the severity of the damage to all vehicles (or objects) involved and often requires an understanding of the design and construction of the motorcycle’s components in order to accurately evaluate the damage associated with an impact.
4. Post-Impact to Rest -
The final phase in a motorcycle accident sequence occurs after the motorcycle and/or rider impacts an object then slides or tumbles to their final rest position. If the rider had separated from the motorcycle prior to impact, then it is likely that there will be 2 distinct impact locations as well as 2 distinct impact-to-rest trajectories; each of these should be evaluated separately. Alternatively, if the rider did not separate from the motorcycle prior to impact, then it can be expected that there will be a single impact area but there still may be 2 distinct post-impact trajectories. For example: one relatively common impact scenario is where an upright motorcycle runs into the side of a car. At impact the rider is often launched forward, at an upwards trajectory, while the motorcycle may stop or spin away from the impact. This scenario would require an evaluation of the vehicles’ damage as well as an analysis of the rider’s trajectory and throw distance.
Veritech’s motorcycle accident reconstruction expert is able to draw on his knowledge and experience as an avid rider and former AMA pro-level road-racer to evaluate and understand a rider’s actions and inputs as well as a motorcycle’s response to the rider’s inputs during emergency maneuvers. He is able to utilize his manufacturing and design engineering experience to understand motorcycle component failure analysis and product liability issues. Finally, he can draw on his experience as an accident reconstructionist and forensic engineer to evaluate all of the available evidence and to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. The combination of training, education and experience gives our motorcycle accident reconstruction expert unmatched credentials and authority. Additionally, our motorcycle expert has been qualified by numerous courts around the country and internationally to give expert witness testimony in the areas of mechanical engineering, accident reconstruction, motorcycle vehicle dynamics, and motorcycle riding techniques and practices.