A desk top review

Our case of the month is a Desk Top Review, or DTR.   The DTR is a review of photographs, statements, police reports, and repair documents, without a physical inspection of the evidence. The DTR provides an economical and impartial review of the case when damages are minor and the vehicles have been repaired or are otherwise unavailable for physical inspection.

This particular incident involved two vehicles, both with damage to their left sides. The insured (who was not available for a statement due to other legal issues), told his wife (who reported the story to the adjuster), that he was traveling east when the other vehicle, a small import, was speeding and sideswiped his van.   In another version to his wife, he said that the other car backed into him (but that was apparently superceded by the sideswipe story).

The other driver said that he was westbound when the insured turned sharply to the left in front of him and sideswiped his vehicle.   GEI was assigned to make an independent examination of the documents and photographs, to determine the correct version of the two conflicting statements, and to determine if the vehicle-to-vehicle damage profiles matched each other.

First, the photographs of the insured vehicle, the van, were reviewed.   These  showed a slight horizontal scrape down the left side of the vehicle at a height of 19 to 23 inches above ground level.

Then, photographs of  the claimant import vehicle were reviewed.   The import was damaged on the entire left side.   Our expert compared the measurements and landmarks contained in the supplied photographs to a weights and measurements database published for the accident reconstruction industry.   The  profile showed the damage was applied in a front-to-back motion, and was 17 to 37 inches above ground level.   He found that the damage on the left rear quarter panel was about 17 inches on the lower aspect of the profile, and was 33 inches on the top of the damage profile.

The left front corner of the import, at the headlamp assembly, was also damaged.   The center of the headlamp assembly was listed as being 26 inches above the ground. The van’s damage height was 19 to 23, the import’s headlamp height was 26 inches. The damage heights of the two vehicles just did not match one another.

Next was the mirror damage.

The adjuster’s close up photographs showed minor friction marks on the import’s left rearview mirror (such as would happen if the vehicle gently brushed a wall) but it was otherwise undamaged.

This mirror was just above the level of the bottom of the windshield, which was listed as being 37 inches above ground level.  This also did not match the van’s 19 to 23 inch high damage.

The damages to the import, while not deeply intrusive, were severe enough that clearly deposited vehicle-to-vehicle paint transfers should be present, particularly since the two vehicles were painted very different colors.  There were no paint transfers in the photographs.   The damage to the import’s left rear quarter panel, at the tail lamp, was fairly deep and showed movement from front-to-back.

The damage profiles did not support either of the scenarios offered by the participants. The damage on the import was not proximate to the van and the damage to the van was not proximate to the import.

This analysis was not an accident reconstruction, the expert’s opinion was based on the documents and photographs supplied by the client.   His conclusion was that neither the insured’s nor the claimant’s statements matched the evidence that was presented.