image of accident reconstruction 3D visualization video

The Accident Reconstruction Narrative: A Case Study

Paul TiceMultimedia, Rendering, Animation Leave a Comment

Sometimes life throws a curve ball. One day you could wake up believing a normal routine of alarm clock, coffee, and mowing the lawn lies in the day ahead. But instead, you get run over by a garbage truck while on your riding lawnmower.

But life isn’t always predictable.

Keep reading to find out how 3D visualization technologies can get used to reconstruct accident scenes.

The Case Background

This real-world event involved one such person, driving along at about 4mph on a riding lawnmower. They saw a garbage truck picking up trash cans on their rural road, slowly passed on the left hugging the curb, and were struck by the garbage truck when it pulled out for the next pick up.

Weird scenario? Yes, it is. And one where there were 2 opposing sides to this situation.

Some time ago, a legal team we have worked with in the past reached out to ToPa Studios to see if we could help reconstruct this scene in some way, knowing that we provided 3D visualizations.

One of the investigators had a drone during the day the call came in to check out the accident scene and decided to fly it around the low canopy rural road to take some video of the tire marks on the road and the wrecked mower.

Their investigation team also sent out surveyors to create a topo of the road to show how steep it was and represent other key landscape features. It was a whole thing –

As the investigation proceeded, one question begged to be answered: could the garbage truck driver see the person on the mower coming down the road, and if not, could they have seen them while right next to the garbage truck? Was there a blind spot? How could that be proved?

Accurate answers are central to this case.

Using 3D Visualization to Tell a Story

3D technology and visualization can tell a story instantly without explanation. Our Studio team, using 360 cameras, 3D laser scanners, drones, and ground cameras went about recreating this scene and scenario for the attorneys.

Our first move was to put a 360 camera in the driver’s seat of the same garbage truck that had the accident, then drive an actual riding lawnmower alongside the garbage truck in real time, filming the truck monitors, the mirrors, and all surroundings simultaneously.

This alone ended up proving there was no blind spot. Taking this a step further, our team reconstructed the garbage truck and roadway using drones and ground cameras coupled with photogrammetry software to simulate the accident.

3D Accident Reconstruction of Truck 1


From the drone video captured by the investigator, we also were able to digitally reconstruct the roadway with the skid marks and all in the 3D model.


3D Accident Reconstruction from Video Footage 1

Our next step was to 3D laser scan the truck and the accident scene to ensure that all of our 3D models were scaled correctly.

Once the point cloud and 3D models were in position based on the accident scene evidence, our Studio team filled in the environment with 3D vegetation and a backdrop of the actual scene from a 360 camera, which projected the actual lighting of that environment onto the 3D models.

Finally, we animated the 3D models in this digital environment to demonstrate the way the collision happened which concluded the narrative with enough clarity to settle the case in the favor of the victim.

Final Animation

As a team who does this sort of work, we understand that there really are no winners in scenarios like this especially with injuries, property damage, and expensive insurance claims.

It is our job to tell the story as accurately as possible with the evidence presented. We also understand that photo-realistic simulations can bias legal teams.

Therefore, we feel it is important to represent only what is provided in evidence and to do our homework on all of the information provided to include speed of vehicles, environmental conditions, and the physics of the movement in the accident.

Our team has found that this type of accident reconstruction work can clearly demonstrate what may be difficult to explain with traditional,  non-3D methods.  We feel fortunate to be working with professionals that can see both sides of the narrative, ensuring we show something real and plausible.


Telling an Evidence-Based Story With Accident Reconstruction Animation

While the technology afforded to us can tell any sort of story possible, it is critical that the story we tell visually serves the evidence-based narrative.

To learn more about how ToPa Studios can support your project, please reach out for a discovery session.

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