An Inline Collision

Three vehicles were involved in an inline nose–to-tail, nose–to-tail accident. The insured, driving a Mercedes-Benz, rear-ended a second vehicle, a Scion. The Scion driver rear-ended the third vehicle, a Ram Laramie pickup. The question was, “Who hit whom, and who was pushed into whom?” GEI was assigned to review the materials provided and determine what was the most probable version of the collision.

Front of Mercedes-Benz

The materials provided included color photographs of all three vehicles and repair estimates of both the Mercedes-Benz and the Ram pickup truck. There was also a police report. It should be noted that there were only four photographs of the Scion, and they were of mediocre quality. They could not be enlarged without significant pixilation.

 

Rear of Scion

The Scion driver stated he had come to a complete stop and was then struck by the following Mercedes-Benz, pushing him into the Ram pickup truck. The insured stated that the collision between the Scion and the Ram pickup truck occurred first, and then Mercedes-Benz struck the Scion.

In a normal inline rear-end collision where the rear vehicle collides with the vehicle in front of it and causes collisions with the next vehicle or vehicles in front of them, we have a distinct pattern of damage. Because vehicle damage is a result of dissipation of kinetic energy, each collision has less and less energy, therefore causing less and less damage in each ensuing collision. So, the most damaged area would be the front of the rear vehicle and the rear of the first struck vehicle. There would then be less damage between the front of the second vehicle and the rear of the third vehicle, and so on for however many vehicles are involved.

Front of Scion

In this case, the damage to the front of the Scion appears to be equal to the rear damage. The most telling piece of evidence is the damage profile between the Scion and the Ram pickup truck. The collision damage on the Scion is largely above the bumper. The leading edge of the hood was involved in the contact. The damage to the rear bumper of the Ram pickup truck was much less significant than the damage to the Scion. What this damage profile indicates is that the Scion was in a heavy forward weight shift due to heavy braking. In other words, the nose was dipped downward most likely due to heavy braking. This caused the front bumper of the Scion to mainly slide beneath the rear bumper of the Ram pickup truck, causing the damage profile seen between these two vehicles.

 

Rear of Ram pickup truck

Had the Scion been stopped before the collision with the Mercedes-Benz, the rear-end collision would have caused acceleration to the Scion, potentially raising the front of the Scion, creating a different damage profile to the second collision. The damage would have been more bumper-to-bumper contact and less hood damage caused by an under ride.

When talking to the adjustor, the driver of the Ram pickup reported feeling two separate impacts. This is also consistent with the Scion striking the Ram pickup truck and then being struck by the Mercedes-Benz.

In summary, the most probable version is that the Scion collided with the Ram pickup truck, and then the Scion was rear-ended by the Mercedes-Benz.