Automotive crashes are inevitable, but when does a defective repair or product contribute to the loss? When causation has been determined, when and how should the responsible party be subrogated? Attendees at the upcoming NASP session titled “Auto Liability – From Manufacturer to Mechanic” will learn the answers to these pressing questions and much more. Session speakers Brad Stolz, forensic specialist at Professional Investigative Engineers (PIE), and Alan Moore, accident reconstruction manager at U.S. Forensic, LLC will guide attendees through discerning between coincidental and causative issues.

Stolz, who specializes in engineering-based investigations regarding automotive accidents, has an extensive background in automotive and diesel mechanics and will therefore discuss scenarios that indicate that fault may lie within sub-par work being done — at a service station, a mechanic shop, and so forth. Moore, drawing from his firsthand experience in the design and analysis of production automobiles, SUVs, and race cars in areas of tire performance, vehicle dynamics and rollover resistance, will explain the incidence of manufacturer defects.

Among the many topics examined will be sudden brake failures. “For instance, faulty brake repairs can be to blame in many accidents,” Stolz said. “They can often be traced to a mechanic who perhaps selected and then erroneously used the wrong brake fluid.”

Another common scenario is that of tire failures, Stolz added. “Although there are rigorous standards for tire repair in place, there is little means to enforce them. The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) sets voluntary guidelines, but many (small shops especially) may not adhere to them.”

The overarching concept of the presentation will be distinguishing between coincidental issues versus causative issues. Even though an issue may have been present at the time of the crash, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it directly contributed to the crash. Both speakers caution against jumping to conclusions, emphasizing meticulous investigations and employing experts — who will have the requisite tools and skills — to sift through the data. Specifically, forensic investigators may extract data from event data recorders (EDRs), also known as automotive “black boxes.” EDRs store information in respect to the severity of the crash, as they can chart the speed, brake position, airbag deployment status, and the velocity changes of an insured car at the time of an accident.

A common pitfall is an eagerness to litigate, which may compound misperceptions.

“I know of numerous claims involving airbags,” Stolz said. “They allege that the air bags did not deploy when they were supposed to. Even though many believe they have a subrogation claim, the fact is that it is extremely rare that these don’t deploy when they should.”

Video clips and photographs will be utilized to demonstrate product defects and facilitate learning. The session is slated for this coming Tuesday, November 4, at 2:00 p.m.