Case of the Month: Auto Body Damage

Feb 1, 2018 by

The insured owner of a Chevrolet Cruze filed a claim for front and rear damage to his vehicle while parked in a shopping mall. Reportedly it was parked and unattended when it was struck from behind and pushed into a shopping cart storage area. Subsequently, the driver withdrew that claim and submitted a different claim. The second claim reported that he ran over an object that fell from a truck resulting in impacts that caused damage to the vehicle as well as injury to the occupants of the vehicle.

GEI was assigned to examine the supplied documents and photographs, to determine which version of the accident was most probable, and the probability for injury in this accident.

The client provided sixty-six color photographs for review. The photographs showed obvious direct contact damage. There were surface scratches and scrapes to the left fender, right fender, right rocker panel, right door handle, right rear door, right quarter-panel, rear bumper cover, front bumper cover, left wheel flare and the right rear wheel cover. The right rocker panel was slightly indented.

Unrelated prior damage was noted as indicated to the left fender. Notably, there was no frame structural damage and no observed deformation with the exception of the right rocker panel. There was no wheel or suspension damage. There was no intrusion into the occupant compartment. The overall appearance of the vehicle suggested a series of low energy transfer impacts to the front right corner and right side surfaces.

The images of the right undercarriage adjacent to the right rocker panel damage showed no contact or deformation to the underside of the vehicle. An object significant enough to cause the rocker panel damage would also cause some amount of damage to the adjacent undercarriage if this vehicle had traveled fully over it. Considering the pattern of the scratching and damage characteristics of the separate areas contacted, all of the right side damage was related. The damage to the front right corner suggested the vehicle struck something.

The scratches to the lower front bumper cover indicated the impact was planar (horizontal) not from a non-horizontal impact force as one would expect when driving over an object. Damage to the right front wheel mudguard suggested the struck object yielded and was knocked down, then run over by the front right wheel. The indentation to the right rocker panel showed some amount of non-horizontal force but with limited involvement. Only the underside of the right rocker panel had any contact or indentation. The lack of additional undercarriage damage indicated the object responsible for the damage was small enough that it fit under the vehicle and was only involved with the right rocker panel and not the undercarriage. The continued surface scratching along the side of the vehicle suggested the right front door handle, right rear door, right quarter-panel and right rear wheel cover were damaged during the same event. The right door handle had a yellow colored residue transfer associated with the scraping that appeared to be consistent with the paint used to cover and highlight roadside furniture such as fire hydrants and parking barriers.

The first claim was for the vehicle being struck on its back bumper and pushed into a shopping cart storage apparatus. The damage to the back of the vehicle consisted of a gouge to the lower right portion of the bumper cover face and some light scratching in various locations across its width.

This damage was not consistent with a planar impact from another vehicle. There was no evidence of an impact that occurred to the back of the vehicle that would accelerate the vehicle forward. The focalized gouge damage to the back bumper cover appeared more likely to be caused by a small, narrow, sharp-pointed object.

Based on these observations, the version where the vehicle struck a stationary object with its front right lower bumper corner, knocking it down and running over it with the vehicle’s front right wheel and sustaining slight right rocker panel damage is the most probable one.

There was no mechanism for the production of an injury to the occupants due to the force of the impact or from a component intrusion into the occupant compartment of this vehicle in this accident.

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