If an automotive or other vehicle or roadway-related accident has recently happened, you may need to have an accident survey conducted. In many cases, the highway patrol officers themselves may use surveying equipment at the scene of an accident for their own records. For example, the California Highway Patrol has purchased several ScanStations and Total Stations for surveying use. In these situations, the equipment is most often used directly following the accident, before the roadway has been re-opened to traffic. For highway patrol purposes, the focus is on quickly, accurately, and completely documenting the scene so that the roadway may be reopened.
Beyond these procedures, insurance companies, attorneys or law enforcement agencies might require an accident survey as part of their investigative process. For official purposes, this survey should be conducted by a professional licensed surveyor. One or more persons involved in the accident might also want to hire a surveyor to conduct an accident survey.
An accident survey can be used as evidence in court to show the scene of the accident, and may become necessary for your insurance company or to fight any court case ensuing from the accident. In the best-case scenario, the surveyor arrives before you have left the scene and before anything has been towed away. An accident survey that is completed after the accident has been cleared may or may not be helpful, depending on the situation.
During an accident survey, a surveying team accurately measures the site of the accident with a margin of error of just a few millimeters. The results of the accident survey may include an AutoCAD drawing or a 3-D, 360-degree simulation view of the accident site. This allows viewers to understand the accident site quite accurately. Accident surveys utilize specialized equipment that allows the taking of measurements without requiring the closing of the road. In many cases, the surveying equipment can be placed at the side of the road and will not obstruct traffic or require surveyors to set foot in the road.
Every item within the accident area is covered by the surveyors, from utility poles and even the wires hanging between the poles to sidewalks, driveways, and potholes. Important roadway features such as width and slopes are also shown, with the degree of accuracy necessary to solve nearly any dispute. If the vehicles involved in the accident are still in position, the accident survey measures their precise locations. In essence, the finished product is the accident scene in its entirety, depicted exactly as it appears in real life.
The evidence obtained through accident surveying can be crucial to an insurance or legal case, or in supporting or disproving a causation theory. The resulting images are surprisingly realistic, and show every detail necessary to reconstruct the accident. In fact, the digital information collected by the accident survey can be used to create a simulation of the accident itself through computer or video reenactments. This reenactment relies not only on the on-scene observations and accident survey measurements but also on the crash report and crash tests showing the results at various angles, allowing accurate reconstruction of the accident given the resulting scene.