Juries Are Learning That The Only One In Court Who Knows What Really Happened May Be An Automotive Forensic Engineer
June 12, 2012
Holly, Michigan, June 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — “Look at the interface between politics, engineering and humans. Cars and trucks are safer than ever but the driving infrastructure is crumbling and drivers are aging and on more medication while trying to manage more in-vehicle distractions.
“It doesn’t help that the vehicles are older, too.” So muses Dave McLellan, one of the world’s best forensic engineers and an expert witness in court cases that determine the cause of an accident, the culpability of the parties involved and compensatory awards.
“Thanks to our advancing safety technology and quality, accident death rates have fallen in the past two decades from 17.9 per 100,000 people to 11 per 100,000,” McLellan notes. “But the population has climbed from two-hundred-fifty million to three-hundred-fourteen million, putting that much more demand on the infrastructure and a lot more people on the road.”
A consultant on the Ford / Firestone tire case, Dave McLellan has served as a forensic engineer in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ontario, Canada. You can read more about his nationwide service at www.davemclellanlegal.com.
“With a median age of 36.8, we have the oldest population in our history driving in the third most populous country in the world,” the forensic engineer adds, “and at an average vehicle age of 10.8 years, we are driving the oldest fleet of cars in our nation’s history.”
“What is an automotive accident?” McLellan asks. “It is a perfect storm that may or may not involve a failure of mechanical engineering, a malfunction of electrical engineering, a botched job on the assembly line, poor maintenance or a bad repair.
“It may be driven by an impaired human at the wheel, a rush of two or more vehicles to occupy the same physical space simultaneously, and a crumbling or broken right of way. Sometimes, it may be caused by deep grooves worn in poorly maintained pavement that fill with water so that a car or truck turns into a boat without a rudder.
“With all of that in play, who needs bad luck?” Dave asks. “But luck may be a factor, such as when a piece of the concrete bridge overhead breaks off and crashes into your windshield just as you drive underneath.
“The new cars and trucks are very good, but chances are that someone in your family isn’t driving a new vehicle and they are traveling across a very mixed driving environment. If there’s a crash, who’s at fault?” McLellan queries. “The manufacturer, the dealer, the driver, the other guy, or the responsible unit of government?”
Then there’s the increasing chance of wildlife on the road. It’s so bad in Michigan that Michigan State Police advise drivers not to swerve but to hit the animal head on.
In the resulting crash, it is often up to highly knowledgeable and experienced forensic engineers like Dave McLellan to figure out what happened and who or what is at fault. Engaged by a plaintiff or a defendant, the legal system turns to Dave as expert witness to see what others can’t, measure and quantify what others can only imagine, and then serve as an expert witness on the case.
Like any witness, the forensic science is very important but being trustworthy and likeable are important, too.
“It is not enough to know what really happened. As a forensic engineer, it is my job to help the attorneys, the judge and the jury understand what really happened as they determine fault and award any appropriate damages or penalty,” Dave explains.
Dave comes by his unique knowledge of engineering, accident and safety dynamics via an unusual and highly productive road. Now retired from General Motors, Dave McLellan was the longest serving chief engineer of the Corvette in that Chevrolet carline’s history. He dealt with a combination of more physics, more horsepower, more innovative technologies, more testing at racing speeds, more safety engineering per pound, and more units sold than just about any other chief engineer in the worldwide automotive industry.
Under his management, the Corvette became so good that it set a number of international and world records at a test track in Fort Stockton, Texas on March 1, 1990, verified by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile), including seven new international records.
Among the many honors received during his thirty-three years of service to General Motors, Dave McLellan was awarded the Edward N. Cole Award for Automotive Engineering Innovation in recognition for “work and achievements (that) exemplify in an outstanding manner innovation in the engineering development of automobiles, their components, systems and accessories”.
Dave was also named an SAE Fellow in 2007, an exceptional professional distinction bestowed on some 20 recipients each year at the SAE World Congress and Exposition.
Today, this same thoughtful and informed approach to testing and analysis, the keen eye for the law, and quiet but compelling presentation of the facts make Dave McLellan is one of the best forensic engineers and expert witnesses available.
“I believe that people should enjoy driving and that they should be as safe as possible while they drive,” Dave says. “I am very pleased to take all that I have learned in my long career and help them do both.”
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