Which Came First: the Accident or the Transmission Damage?

 

Recently, we were asked to evaluate a vehicle in order to determine if the damage to the transmission occurred before or after the vehicle was involved in an accident. This was a situation where the accident involved two vehicles, a Pontiac Sunfire and a Buick Enclave. The impact occurred such that the Sunfire sustained damage on the right front side while the Enclave’s left front side was damaged. The Enclave was repaired, returned to the owner and approximately 3100 miles put on the vehicle before the transmission failed. Specifically, the transmission began making a whining noise and when put in gear, would not “pull”. One of the ways to assess when damage occurred is to construct a timeline of events that leads to the damage. That is, establish the condition of the transmission before and after the collision. In this case, the service record of the Enclave was obtained from the owner’s service garage. The record showed that the owner had the vehicle in for an oil change approximately one month prior to the accident. The particular servicing agency also provided a 21 point inspection which included checking all fluid levels. It was then established that the transmission was in good condition prior to the accident. From that piece of information, and without being able to prove that something else (like a sudden fluid leak) caused the damage, the benefit of the doubt has to go to the owner. The insurance company for the owner of the Pontiac was therefore responsible for the repair of the transmission in the Enclave. However, it should be noted that if the condition of the transmission could not have been established, the alternative would have been to remove the transmission and make a determination from the damaged parts. This is a process whereby someone is going to incur some charges. It is usually beneficial to all parties if an arrangement is made beforehand. The arrangement is usually one where the insurance company will pay for the disassembly and repair if the damage is found to have been caused by the accident. If not, then the owner has to agree to pay for the disassembly and repairs.

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About rjhillconsulting
R.J. Hill Consulting is a forensic consulting engineering firm that specializes in performing failure investigations for attorneys and insurance companies. Mr. R.J. Hill is a registered professional (mechanical) engineer with over 37 years of experience, 33 years in private practice. Please visit www.rjhill.com to see the kinds of forensic investigations that Mr. Hill performs.

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