Forensic, General & Medical
Expert Witnesses

Communication and the Forensic Animator-Attorney-Reconstructionist Team


     By Dustin Productions LLC Forensic Animations

PhoneCall David Dustin, President, Dustin Productions LLC at (404) 368-0659


Communication is one of the key elements in the successful application of forensic animation technologies to an accident reconstruction (or recreation).
While that may seem an obvious statement, it isn’t always the case. Workloads and busy schedules can limit successful communications and potentially limit a favorable outcome.

Before work is started, the goals need to be defined as clearly as possible. This can still be subject to change as once the actual project starts to develop and the reconstructionist or lawyer is able to visualize “how things will look”, opinions can change. In fact, that occurs quite frequently, but initial goals are important to set the course.

Involve all your experts as soon as possible. For example, if there is a conspicuity issue, address it early on. If an equipment design or failure is involved, save unnecessary future expense by addressing it as early as feasible. Above all, communicate these concerns to the team members.

Regularly scheduled meetings with deliverables or expected results play an important role as well. While the initial meeting(s) should be held face to face, the subsequent meetings can be held online.

A major advantage of online meetings, is they can be held anytime night or day, and with the participants all in different parts of the country (or world). Online meetings are an excellent way to allow all parties to view progress and express opinions related to the project’s direction. This point can’t be stressed enough! This particular tool can be one of those make or break components, particularly where the timeline is tight. There are many services available that allow multiple users on most operating systems to connect from anyplace in the world with a hi-speed internet connection. These services allow the participants to simultaneously view the host’s computer screen and even use highlighters to focus attention in an important area.

This level of involvement further solidifies the connection and role of the accident reconstructionist in the creation of the animations. This topic is regularly the subject of questioning in depositions, where the level of participation of the reconstructionist in the creation of the animations is questioned. In an online meeting, the reconstructionist can quickly validate vehicle paths, speeds, POI (point of impact), POR (point or rest) and any other important details all in real-time.

We all interpret information through our own filters. Animators typically think in three dimensions, while most attorneys think in two and are more verbally oriented. The reconstructionist can be a combination of all the mentioned traits. These are not necessarily obstacles but issues that can easily be overcome when clear and concise communication is the mantra of the team. Combining the various thought processes can result is certain synergies, use it as a strength.

Clearly communicated deadlines such as deposition dates, mediations and any court dates need to be passed to all parties as soon as they become known.

Avoid surprises at all costs. Conversations between any of the parties need to be passed to the other members of the team in some manner. Cell phones, email and text messaging are all excellent tools, use them!

Make no assumptions period. Proper delegation and assignment with the corresponding commitment acknowledgement are the best methods to ensure the success of your case.

Communication style is an aspect that bears discussion. Some prefer the direct approach while others like a more subtle, subdued approach. Discuss these things openly and honestly at the beginning of the project to prevent any unforeseen complications down the road. Remember it is a team effort and each member needs to do their part.

The role of the team members needs to be defined at the outset. The animators role is to be a tool for the reconstructionist, not trying to create the next Hollywood blockbuster. The reconstructionist is the expert, the one whose analysis will be under scrutiny of opposing experts. The attorney (and many times the paralegal) needs to keep things moving and make the hard decisions as to which views to use or other content such as text overlays and still image usage. The animator can make suggestions as to how a particular vantage point could be persuasive, particularly if those opinions are based on previous court cases, but the decisions belong to the attorney and the reconstructionist.

You will find the close cooperation on cases involving forensic animation can be a very rewarding experience as each team member takes an active role in ensuring its success. Most high quality forensic animations are impressive to view. Having a hand in the “direction” gives all involved a sense of accomplishment and knowing we have ultimately rendered our clients highest level of service possible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Dustin, President, Dustin Productions LLC
David Dustin is President of Dustin Productions LLC, located in Adairsville, GA.
Mr. Dustin is a product of the Industrial Automation arena with many years experience in technical projects and project management involving Robotics, Lasers and Automated systems. Many of the same disciplines that are applied to Industrial Automation are used in the creation of Forensic Animations.
Dustin Productions LLC, has successfully created animations in a wide variety of cases, with Tractor-trailer cases making up approximately 60% of the case workload. Cases are split approximately 50/50 between defense and plaintiff work. To date, Dustin Productions LLC has never had an animation excluded or deemed inadmissible.

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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.
For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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