The Three Basic Steps of an Accident Reconstruction

Accidents happen. Figuring out how and why an accident may happen is a scientific process. While testimony is a necessary part of determining what occurred, a thorough and data-based reconstruction of a collision can lend insight and provide information that may be otherwise missing from, or inconsistent across, testimonial accounts. Explico has a team of professionals skilled in performing accident reconstructions that aid in the analysis of cases covering a wide range of accidents that may occur in virtually all types of environments.  

The Three Basic Steps of an Accident Reconstruction

Performing a thorough and accurate accident reconstruction generally involves a systematic and consistent approach. The three basic steps consist of:

  1. Data collection and evidence preservation
  2. Analysis
  3. Communication of findings

Data Collection and Evidence Preservation

Whether the accident happened within the past few hours or is years old, a thorough reconstruction will typically involve some collection of data from the field or other sources. In some instances, a detailed inspection of the site of the accident may be necessary. Additionally, inspections can be performed on other elements involved in an accident, such as vehicles, broken objects, or clothing, to name just a few.

Beyond this, inspections of exemplar items may also prove valuable. An exemplar is an undamaged vehicle/vessel/component that is identical to the make, model, and equipment associated with the accident-involved vehicle/vessel/component. Reconstructionists use state-of-the art technology to fully capture any relevant data and evidence from the exemplar, scene, or other elements of the accident. For example, the following tools frequently prove helpful in performing a thorough reconstruction:

  1. Digital video and photography
  2. Unmanned aerial imagery, i.e., drones
  3. 3D Laser Scanning
  4. Low light photography
  5. Light metering
  6. Headlight mapping
  7. Sound pressure level measurements
  8. Binaural or ambisonic audio capturing

In cases involving automobile collisions, whether passenger or commercial vehicles, a variety of tools can be used to extract information from accident-involved vehicles. Information can be collected from Event Data Recorders (EDRs or “black boxes”), security cameras, Lytx Drivecams, Heavy Truck ECMs, and several other sources. More recently, the prevalence of GPS tracking and infotainment systems may provide key information on vehicles, trucks and even recreational boats. In addition to information that can be obtained from physical inspections, reconstructionists have a variety of databases and other resources at their disposal containing relevant information relating to vehicles in a collision.

Understanding the sources of available data and evidence is an important element in the reconstruction of any event. Finding and consulting a qualified and experienced expert in reconstruction can prove very beneficial when determining and accessing all sources of useful data and evidence.


Having access to all of the available data and evidence is critical, but knowing what to do with it once it is collected is equally important. The available data and evidence must be considered together to determine what analysis tools are appropriate. Reconstructionists will utilize a variety of tools when performing an analysis of a specific event. These tools include hand calculations, spreadsheets, CAD drawings and layouts, and advanced 3D physics-based simulation tools.

When necessary, a 3D digital twin of the environment is created utilizing the information obtained during a site inspection. A digital twin of the environment, combined with collected data, calculations, and simulations, can be used to determine the time-distance relationship of various objects and vehicles/vessels associated with an accident, in addition to assessing issues of visibility. Ultimately, this data is synthesized to determine a full 3D dynamic understanding of what happened during an accident.


Performing an accurate and thorough reconstruction of an event is all but worthless if the findings are unable to be simply and concisely communicated. Often, the most effective means to communicate the findings of an accident reconstruction is to show it. Fortunately, most of the techniques and tools used to perform the aforementioned data and evidence collection and analysis can be used and combined to create a full, physics-based representation of what happened in an accident (see video). Rather than generating an artistic rendering of an accident, these representations capture the science of a reconstruction and present it with incredible accuracy and clarity.

Accident reconstruction is a science, and Explico engineers and professionals take great care to acquire all available data and information from a case to help accurately determine what happened in an accident. By reconstructing an accident, our goal is always to generate a clear, accurate, and science- and physics-based representation of what happened in an accident.


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