By Kelly Wilbur, Esq.

Accident reconstruction expert witnesses commonly testify in civil and criminal trials involving motor vehicle accidents.  Below is a sample cross-examination of an accident reconstruction expert witness.  The cross is fairly brief and focuses on how the analysis was done, what computations the expert failed to do, the fact that the expert did not examine the vehicles in question, what the expert relied upon to form the opinions, and the compensation of the accident reconstruction expert.

Example Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Cross-Examination: Point of Impact v. Point of Rest

Q           And I know you’ve kind of touched on it, but it’s fair to say that your analysis starts and then your expertise that you provided here today pretty much starts post impact.

A           Every accident reconstructionist in the world started where I would start. There’s not one of us who wouldn’t have started at the point of rest because we know that value a hundred percent, and that’s the velocity is zero at rest.

Q           What I mean by that, is you provided some testimony that you said you could’ve made – gone into some other detailed analysis to be able to determine the speed pre-impact, but you did not do that here?

A           It would only increase the reported speed and frankly it provides a level of detail that was not necessary to figure out what happened in this case. And in this case, it was Mr. Basatia failed to follow the traffic controls.

Cross-Examination Facts as the Basis of the Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Opinion – Photos, Testimony, Etc.

Q           Now, you also relied on — obviously on the impact photos, correct?

A           Correct.

Q           And you relied on the testimony provided by Mr. Longoria, the deposition testimony as well as Mr. Basatia, correct?

A           Correct.  And rely — remember we always use witness testimony, if to see — if it corresponds with physical evidence. Humans are bad recorders.

Q           Okay.    And consistent with that, I mean, the — did you place more weight on either one of the testimony provided by Mr. Longoria or Mr. Basatia

A           Frankly, I had done the analysis, I think with the exception of the acceleration analysis, prior to receiving their testimony.  So it didn’t matter to me. I did have their witness statements, so that was, you know, I was able to use that.

Cross-Examination of Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness – Failure to Inspect the Vehicles in Question

Q           Okay. And you’ve testified already here today you did not inspect either of the vehicles, correct?

A           Correct, they were not available.

Q           You did not specifically inspect the physical damage to either of the vehicles.

A           Let’s qualify that though. I had the repair estimates for both. And so I saw the amount of — you know, you can read through a repair estimate and see that all the steering mechanisms are damaged, and to such a great — I think it was a four or five page document for the Longoria vehicle of all the repair stuff, including frame damage. So I can’t say that — answer your question, no, I didn’t look at it, because I did have some knowledge to the damage of both vehicles.

Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness – Cross-Examination on Reliance on Testimony

Q           Did you take any consideration — what about the testimony provided by Mr. Longoria as far as — I know you talked a little about that in your deposition, the fact that Mr. Longoria stops in the middle of the intersection because he sees the Basatia vehicle coming quickly, rapidly, however his estimation is, do you believe that a — stopping in the middle of the intersection is safe?

A           And I think I testified about this in my deposition. There were no subsequent rear impacts which is where he would’ve been a threat. Stop — he stopped probably prudently in his travel lane, and I think one of the questions that was being asked during my deposition and I heard some of this today, was he was turned, but he was still in his travel lane, he was making a turn. He’s allowed to make a turn, and still be within his travel lane.

Q           Okay.    Well, let me see — and I’ll ask you subsequent questions. I guess the answer to that question is yes, you believe it was, I guess, prudent for him to do that.

A           I’m not a trucking expert. I think he did a prudent maneuver by giving way. I think it’s always safer to do that. He was already going at a fairly low speed, so any vehicles behind weren’t hit by a — you know, a sudden stop. You know, our biggest fear is a truck — something’s going to stop really quickly in front of us. That’s not this case.

Q           Did you — kind of a yes or no answer, you know.    Did you look at the — based on the testimony by Mr. Longoria and the fact that he did stop to allow the Basatia vehicle to pass him up and take a left, that what if he had chosen not to stop and gone through the intersection if he would’ve made the intersection prior to Mr. Basatia getting to him and causing this impact.

A           Sure.     So let’s look at that. If he’s traveling, and let’s use an easy 40 miles an hour instead of 39 —

Q           Well.

A           But just look at the distance. So in 40 miles an hour, 66 feet per second, he’s going to cover that 200 feet or, you know, from — in oh gosh, 3 seconds, right. There is no way traveling at maybe 10 miles an hour, 15 at the most, I’m going to say 10, probably 10 miles an hour, that he can clear that curvature. At 15 miles an hour, 22 feet per second, he’s got to go more than 87 feet because that was the shorter lane. So a hundred, so 22, so five seconds, no, he would not have cleared the intersection –

Sample Accident Reconstruction Cross-Examination – Missing Analysis

Q           Well, what I’m asking you is that you didn’t — I mean, you know just did it right now, but you didn’t undertake that analysis, correct?

A           You know what, I did it just now, so I didn’t have to. It’s so easy to do.10 was not necessary for that analysis.

Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Example Cross-Examination on Fees/Money

Q           What do you normally charge per hour —

A           Uh-huh. I bill out at $250 an hour, so I think I have spent until this trial, I think I’ve charged my client about $5,600. We had a deposition testimony and then the analysis where both of them were about $2,800. So 5,600 up to this trial.

Q           And is that including your travel time and the time that you spent here today?

A           I haven’t counted all that up yet, that would be a little bit more.

Q           What I mean is, you also charged $250 to be here today?

A           I do.

Q           And where did you come from?

A           Colorado.

Q           Colorado.

A           It’s a dry heat there.

Q           I’m sorry, I didn’t —

A           It’s a dry heat there.

Q           Oh, right.

Sample Accident Reconstruction Cross-Examination Question from The Bench (Judge) On Limits of Investigation and Analysis

THE COURT:       You mentioned briefly that you conducted a simple analysis, I guess a more complicated analysis would have been possible. Why wasn’t it done here, is it just more expensive?

THE WITNESS:    To do a conservation of momentum for the rotational component would have certainly provided more hours to the billing, and really what we were getting at, in this case what happened in this accident. I was not asked to quantify the forces to the vehicles, so I didn’t have to do that.

THE COURT:       Okay.    So you were not to perform —

THE WITNESS:    Correct.

THE COURT:       — additional analysis.

THE WITNESS:    Correct. Could have done it, but just did not — you bring the right tool to the job, right, and so that was the analysis that I did was the right tool for this case.

About the Author

Kelly J. Wilbur, Esq., is a Trainer and Consultant for SEAK, Inc – The Expert Witness Training Company. She was an insurance defense and commercial litigator for five years prior to joining SEAK. Kelly received her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts School of Law in 2015 and graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a B.A. in Political Science. While at St. Mary’s, Kelly was a member of the nationally ranked varsity sailing team and was a two-time All American. Kelly has experience preparing experts for deposition and trial testimony. Phone:  617-791-6802 Email: