Accident Investigation

Crane Engineering offers complete accident investigation services for passenger and commercial vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, watercraft and recreational vehicles.

Crane Engineering accident investigation and crash reconstruction experts are trained with the proper methodology for accident scene documentation, site surveying, 3D Laser Scanning, data collection, and photography.  This is critical to the successful resolution of any liability claim.

Motor Vehicle Accident Reconstruction

Accident Reconstruction is the application of scientific principles to determine how an accident occurred based on the evidence available after the event. This process requires specialized knowledge in the areas of investigation, engineering, and human factors. Our engineering staff has over 165 years of combined experience assisting clients with their accident reconstruction needs, including ACTAR certifications and vehicle OEM experience.

Crane's engineers have access to computational numerical analysis tools in order to perform Finite Element Analysis (FEA) studies or generate simulations/animations of motor vehicle collisions.  

Motorcycles, ATVs, Snowmobiles and PWCs

Motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, side-by-sides, snowmobiles, jet skis, and personal watercraft (PWCs) have unique operating characteristics and environments that must be thoroughly understood to successfully analyze accidents involving these vehicles. Our engineers and technical staff possess decades of hands-on riding, service, and maintenance experience and have professionally investigated and analyzed hundreds of accidents involving these vehicles. This knowledge and experience allows us to address issues specific to these vehicles.

Vehicle Dynamics and Handling

Vehicle dynamics is the study of the forces and resulting motion that a vehicle experiences in use. Handling refers to a vehicle's response to the driver's inputs and the feedback that the driver receives from the vehicle. Knowledge in both areas is often critical to understanding the sequence of events leading to an accident. Our engineers have strong practical and theoretical experience with these concepts that allows us to explain and demonstrate their role in the accident.

Powertrain Failure Investigation and Analysis

Often times, powertrains experience failures in the field in a variety of vehicles, machinery, and applications. This includes engines, transmissions, and air management systems such as turbochargers or superchargers. In some cases, user modifications, aftermarket additions, or foreign contaminants contribute to the failure. Crane's engineers have the training and experience to determine the most likely cause of a powertrain component failure in the field.

Human Factors

Roadway Design

Design and layout of a roadway for public travel involves a complex matrix of requirements and considerations. Our engineers understand these requirements and apply the principles of Traffic Engineering, Accident Reconstruction, and Human Factors to evaluate the contribution of roadway design to a specific accident.

Traffic Control

Intersections are a common setting for accidents. The potential for conflict increases dramatically when roads and roadway users from multiple directions converge. Traffic control is the use of signs, signals, pavement marking, and other roadway design elements to minimize this conflict. Analyzing the contribution of traffic control devices to a specific accident requires understanding the principles of Traffic Engineering, applicable regulatory requirements, recommended practices and Accident Reconstruction experience. Our staff includes David Noyce, Ph.D., P.E. who is a nationally recognized researcher in this field.


Pedestrian accidents range from impacts by motor vehicles to slip or trip and fall mishaps on sidewalks and parking lots. While these accidents can result in severe injuries to the pedestrian, typically minimal physical evidence is left behind at the accident site or on the striking vehicle. When present, this evidence may be subtle and fleeting; necessitating a thorough and timely investigation by knowledgeable engineers with training and experience specific to these types of accidents.


Conflicts between motor vehicles and bicyclists can have devastating consequences for these vulnerable roadway users. Investigating and analyzing these accidents requires training and experience specific to these types of collisions. Our engineers offer a wealth of experience and knowledge in analyzing these accidents and examining the issues unique to these road or trail users.

Commercial Vehicles

Accidents involving commercial vehicles present challenges not present in passenger vehicle collisions. Compared to passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles exhibit large discrepancies in vehicle weights, structural design, driver operation and vehicle dynamics that can influence the circumstances surrounding an accident. Our staff has extensive commercial vehicle experience, including an engineer that maintains certification as an ASE Master Medium/Heavy Truck Technician. Leveraging this experience, our engineers have analyzed thousands of accidents involving commercial vehicles.

Vehicle Services and Maintenance

One aspect of accident avoidance involves the performance capability of the vehicle(s) involved. An important factor in that performance capability is proper service and maintenance of the vehicle in question. Evaluating the effects of recent or neglected repairs and maintenance requires a thorough understanding of vehicle design, service procedures and accident reconstruction. Our staff has extensive experience in these areas and includes an engineer that maintains certifications as an ASE Master Automobile Technician and an ASE Master Auto Body/Paint Technician.

Component Failure Investigation

After an accident, it is common for vehicles or equipment to exhibit broken or missing components. Identifying these components, evaluating when they failed and assessing if that failure was a contributing factor to the accident requires a strong engineering background and considerable practical experience in reconstructing an accident sequence.

Crane Engineering has experience assessing the strength and durability of vehicle components, including bolted joints. Vibration data analysis can be performed to estimate component life or damage. Field investigations are routinely performed to investigate the causes of alleged issues such as sudden unintended acceleration, rollovers and loss of control, and the use of restraints (seatbelts, airbags, etc.).

Vehicle and Power Equipment Fire Origin and Cause

A fire involving a motor vehicle naturally elicits questions about the initial point of origin and the underlying cause of the fire. The combination of numerous fuel and ignition sources in a motor vehicle require careful investigation and analysis of the evidence left after the fire is extinguished to determine the vehicle's involvement in the fire. The challenge of identifying and sorting out the significant evidence from the burned rubble and extinguisher residue requires specific training and practical experience. Our staff includes CFEIs and CVFIs with vehicle OEM experience.

Industrial, Construction and Agricultural Equipment

Accidents involving manufacturing, construction, mining, and agricultural equipment typically involve industry-specific machines. Knowledge of the relevant standards and recommended practices coupled with meticulous investigation and accident analysis can usually reveal the root cause of an accident and lead to recommendations for improved future safety. Our engineers combine their extensive experience reconstructing a myriad of accident types with an understanding of the industry specific concerns to successfully determine the accident cause.

Consumer Products and Outdoor Power Equipment

Accident investigations involving products used by consumers and homeowners benefit from the approach of meticulous investigation and detailed analysis that Crane Engineering employs. Combined with knowledge of a product's intended use and industry standards, this approach reveals the root cause of the accident and identifies contributing factors. Our engineers have successfully applied this approach along with relevant field and laboratory testing in hundreds of cases involving these products to address issues including:

  • Guarding
  • Component failure investigation
  • Warnings and instructions
  • Environmental and operator factors
  • Setup, assembly, and maintenance
  • Snow blowers
  • Lawnmowers
  • Lawn and garden tractors
  • Power tools
  • Machine design

Crash Data Retrieval

Crash Data Retrieval (CDR) relies upon an instrument installed in most passenger cars, SUVs, and trucks called an event data recorder (EDR); they are sometimes referred to as the "black box".  An EDR is generally part of a vehicle's airbag control module, and can be configured to store recorded information such as speed, brake use, or restraint system performance when a vehicle is involved in a crash event. EDRs are triggered by sudden changes in speed (also called Delta-V), and can help determine what the vehicles were doing before, during and after a crash event.

Crane Engineering has trained engineers and the necessary equipment to perform downloads from passenger vehicles and commercial trucks. In addition, we possess the experience to interpret the data and relate to the incident in question.