In this Issue:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A BICYCLE ENGINEER DURING LITIGATION

GENERAL MOTORS FINED WHILE FEDERAL JUDGE COULD FORCE GM TO PARK ALL VEHICLES INVOLVED IN "SWITCHGATE" RECALL

INCIDENT RECONSTRUCTION WITH BIOMECHANICAL SUPPORT

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A BICYCLE ENGINEER DURING LITIGATION

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A BICYCLE ENGINEER DURING LITIGATION

When a bicycle accident occurs, the resulting litigation can have serious ramifications for both the Plaintiff and defendant. Choosing the correct expert for either side is crucial. I have been reconstructing bicycle accidents for 35 years. This area of accident reconstruction has an inordinate amount of individuals that are not qualified to do this work. There are basic criteria that should be carefully considered.

Is the individual an advocate? Often times a simple examination of the persons website will determine if they espouse some “over the top” opinion. There is no place for an advocate in the court system. If someone is constantly exposing “cyclist rights” or, designated bike ways over bike paths, they are not objective in their opinions. Cross examination is not the place for a “hired gun” mentality. If the individual is constantly talking about cases he “won,” then you do not want them involved in your project. If someone qualifies as an “expert” in a court room they are given wide latitude in what they can say under oath. While the court may allow a hired gun mentality during testimony, the resulting verdict will probably be overturned on appeal resulting in large expense for the client. The Forensic Engineer’s role is to be a friend of the court and assist the trier of fact, not brag about “winning” cases.

Publications- has the individual published in engineering literature and been subject to peer review? There is a lot of literature in the cycling world on various issues. There is very little literature that has made its way into the professional literature and is relied upon by other engineers. A simple inspection of the individual’s web site will determine whether the person just writes in the Cycling Publications or actually publishes in Engineering Journals.

Racing Background- has the individual had an extensive cycling background? Certainly, having a racing background is a definite plus. Equipment and bike handling capabilities are stretched to the maximum during racing. That “hands on” knowledge is essential for reconstructing bike accidents. However, just because someone “rides a lot” or belongs to the League of American Wheelmen does not make them an expert in trajectory or force of impact calculations.

Professional Engineering Organizations- Professional Engineering organizations vet their candidates extensively. If the PE is a full member, or fellow, in the following organizations their qualifications have been subject to peer review:

  • American Society of Civil Engineers
  • Institute of Traffic Engineers
  • National Society of Professional Engineers
  • National Academy of Forensic Engineers
  • Practice Division of Each State
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Nothing pleases me more on a project than to have a highly qualified Professional Engineer on the other side of the issue. In these instances, the matter usually gets resolved with a minimum of cost and effort for both sides. There is nothing more difficult than to have a “nut case” on the other side that will not take the facts of the matter into account, has a personal agenda, is not qualified, and attacks anyone who disagrees with them on a professional level.

by: James M. Green

GENERAL MOTORS FINED WHILE FEDERAL JUDGE COULD FORCE GM TO PARK ALL VEHICLES INVOLVED IN

GENERAL MOTORS FINED WHILE FEDERAL JUDGE COULD FORCE GM TO PARK ALL VEHICLES INVOLVED IN "SWITCHGATE" RECALL"

There are numerous lawsuits popping up against General Motors due to a recall fiasco which has been dubbed “Switchgate”. Faulty Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Saturn ignition switches have been linked to at least 31 accidents and 12 deaths, according to ABC News. The problematic switch has prompted the recall of 2.6 million small cars.

According to the New York Times, General Motors has been fined $28,000 for its failure to cooperate in the National Highway Safety Administration's "Switchgate" investigation. Federal safety investigators are fining General Motors $7,000 per day for failing to respond to more than one-third of their requests for information about a faulty ignition switch.

On April 3rd it was reported by Bloomberg that the judge hearing the Silvas’ case could force GM to tell customers to park their recalled vehicles until further notice. The Silvas' lawsuit stems from vehicle owners upset because of diminished resale value because of the recall. They are asking for class action status.

There are additional lawsuits going on involving wrongful death that are complicated because there is a question as to whether GM hid the switch problems during their 2009 bankruptcy. If they are found guilty, plaintiffs could be allowed to sue “New GM” for accidents and deaths that occurred before the restructuring was finalized. The initial reports indicated that problems with Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Saturn ignition switches began surfacing in 2004, ten years before the “Switchgate” recall. More recently, however, according to an article by Richard Read with thecarconnection.com entitled, “Switchgate Update: GM On Trial & On Capitol Hill”, “GM says that it knew there might have been problems as early as 2001, long before the first recalled vehicles rolled into showrooms.”

According to CNN, GM has announced recalls of nearly 7 million vehicles this year (2.6 million related to the ignition switch problem). And, according to Automotive News, the General Motors' investigation of faulty ignitions turned up more than 250 crashes in which airbags failed to deploy on cars that have not been recalled, according to a lawsuit filed against GM. The lawsuit alleges that GM has not recalled all of the defective cars.

The suit says GM rejected changes recommended by engineers in 2005 that would offer a 'sure solution' due to the cost involved. “GM’s engineers understood that increasing the detent in the ignition switch alone was not a solution to the problem,” the lawsuit says, “but GM concealed — and continues to conceal from the public...the nature and extent of the defects, which the current recall will not cure.” Many, if not all, of the unrecalled vehicles that lawsuit refers to have been recalled since that lawsuit was filed.

The order to park all vehicles involved in the "Switchgate" investigation is a result of the Silvas' lawsuit which is regarding the diminished resale value of the cars, not from the wrongful death suits. They are seeking up to $10 billion in damages from GM for a "fail-safe solution" to the problem which involves the steering, brake and airbag systems shutting off without warning. The park order would stay in effect until the full recall and repair of the vehicles could be carried out.

So how much would the ‘park order’ cost General Motors?

Reported by Law360, New York (April 10, 2014, 9:01 PM ET), General Motors Company told the Texas federal court that the plaintiffs suing to force GM to park the 2.5 million recalled cars, should post a bond, which reportedly would cost up to $1 billion dollars. GM continued to argue that Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires the plaintiffs to post a security bond that reflects the costs that the automaker may incur in complying with a “park it now” notice, if the injunction turns out to be wrongful.

The plaintiffs have argued that they don’t have the financial resources to post a bond and that GM would not incur monetary losses by asking the drivers to park their cars. GM argued that the plaintiff’s had not shown proof to support their claims that if additional keys are removed from the ignition key chains that that cars would run into an ignition problem.

GM has argued that the plaintiffs have not shown expert proof to support claims that problems would arise with only the ignition key being used.

NHTSA RECALL REPORTS:

General Motors LLC (GM) is recalling certain model years:

  • 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt
  • 2006-2011 Chevrolet HHR
  • 2007-2010 Pontiac G5
  • 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice
  • 2003-2007 Saturn Ion
  • 2007-2010 Saturn Sky
INCIDENT RECONSTRUCTION WITH BIOMECHANICAL SUPPORT

INCIDENT RECONSTRUCTION WITH BIOMECHANICAL SUPPORT

The Investigative Engineers Association (I-ENG-A) members and its biomechanical advisors (Vector Dynamics) have access to perform scientific modeling of cases which require the analysis of the injuries sustained and/or claimed. This is especially important for courtroom testimony.

By utilizing MADYMO (Mathematical Dynamic Model) tools to construct validated scientific models, the I-ENG-A biomechanics team can provide valuable expertise in the area of injury biomechanics, pathological joint motion and/or joint forces as a result of trauma, and assessing the level of injury severity sustained by humans.

Injury dynamics and the role of various types of equipment and environmental conditions are effectively modeled and tested using physicsbased simulations, specifically targeted to subject kinematics/kinetics to confirm injury causation. Information gathered from the incident location can be used to create an environment which envelops the subject with detailed points of contact. Using a rich selection of validated dummy models, three dimensional dynamic simulations can be performed giving injury profiles and accelerations at every time instant of an incident event. With the proper scaling techniques, any size and shape of subject can be modeled. A review of all diagnostics and a complete review of the medical records provide the necessary materials in completing a biomechanical investigation. Typical areas of biomechanical analysis include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Spinal Injury
  • Concussion
  • Bone Fracture
  • Solid And Hollow Organ Trauma
  • Rotator Cuff Tear
  • Hip, Knee and Shoulder Injury
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorder
  • Seat Belt and Airbag Induced Injury
  • Knee Meniscus and Ligamentous Injury

By Kenneth J. Colbert, PE, Vector Dynamics