From NALA’s 2019 Convention & Expo, host Carl Morrison welcomes Ken and Anna Buchner for a detailed survey of the practical aspects of motor vehicle event recording and reconstruction. They discuss how a reconstructionist goes about their examination of an accident and the role paralegals play in the process.
Ken Buchner is the owner of Collision Reconstruction Associates, LLC, a full service motor vehicle traffic accident consultation and reconstruction firm.
Anna Buchner is a paralegal and case manager for Collision Reconstruction Associates, LLC.
Special thanks to our sponsors, NALA, ServeNow, CourtFiling.net and Legalinc.
The Paralegal Voice
NALA Annual 2019: Accident Reconstruction & Recording with Ken & Anna Buchner
Carl Morrison: Hello, welcome to The Paralegal Voice. I am of course live recording on location from the 2019 NALA Conference & Expo in Scottsdale, Arizona. You guys have probably been listening to several of the little shows that I’ve been doing here past couple of days. We’re in full second day, I guess it’s really our first full day of CLE, but second day of the conference. We still have a whole another day of conference and education and lazy river and pool, you know later, but of course, we kind of get our education in right.
I mean, I am Carl Morrison, I am the host to The Paralegal Voice, and I am here with the couple of wonderful guests. I’m going to introduce them in a second, but first I want to give a shot out of our sponsors, NALA, of course, NALA has been our first sponsor or major sponsor since the very first show, CourtFiling.net, Legalinc, and ServeNow. So definitely sponsors, thank you so much for your generous support and listeners please support our sponsors.
Joining me now I have Ken Buchner. He is an accident reconstructionist and Anna Buchner, case manager, both from Collision Reconstruction Associates. Ladies and gentlemen, Lady and gentleman, thank you so much for agreeing to be my guests on this afternoon’s show. Welcome.
Ken Buchner: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Anna Buchner: Thank you for inviting us.
Carl Morrison: Thank you guys so much, I greatly appreciate it. So for those listeners that maybe weren’t here and shame on you should be here at the conference of course. Ken Buchner, he presented a couple of sessions this morning actually. The first one was entitled Motor Vehicle Event, oh excuse me, no, actually his first one is Motor Vehicle Crash Reconstruction and then about an hour and a half later he did Motor Vehicle Event Data Recorders.
Now my background for those listeners maybe you know this about me. I used to do motor vehicle accident type cases, defense side trucking accident cases, some products liability in the way of major automobile manufacturers. And so I’ve got a special place in my heart for accident reconstructionist such as Ken.
But I wanted to interview you guys and kind of get your perspective about a, being an accident reconstructionist, little bit about your background and from the paralegals perspective, case managers perspective of working with an accident reconstructionist, what to look for.
So we are going to first start with Ken, and Ken why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself, a little bit of background?
Ken Buchner: Well I initially started Collision Reconstruction Associates back in 2007. After 21 years of law enforcement, I retired, and initially I went to work for a private investigator doing the accident reconstruction, and decided later that if I was going to promote a product I would promote mine, and so I formed my own company and have been doing motor vehicle accident reconstruction since then.
Now my background in law enforcement also included working in undercover narcotics, and also doing crime scene investigation.
Carl Morrison: Wow.
Ken Buchner: So it gives me a chance to still be a detective. I still get to do my accidents, and I still get to do occasional crime scene work for both, currently for criminal defense attorneys, for public defenders, then on the civil arena, the plaintiff attorneys and defense attorneys.
Carl Morrison: Okay. I am a crime fanatic. I watch all the Netflix shows. I’m an armchair accident reconstructionist, so I am not an expert by any means and I’m sitting here with someone that is truly a subject matter expert on this because of your experience and expertise.
So I’ve got also Anna here, now Anna, I know Anna and we’ve worked together in the past on State Bar Paralegal Divisions. So Anna is a paralegal but she’s also the case manager for Collision Reconstruction Associates and Anna, I kind of wanted to say first for you, give us a little bit about your background.
Anna Buchner: I have been a paralegal now for over 20 years, and I work — did work 12 years in insurance defense, and I was the paralegal that would call and ask for a reconstructionist to produce a report for us. I would always, but before then I had an expert directory to look through, prior to the internet.
The Google that we have now back in the day we use books, and or by word of mouth from referrals. So I would call and ask for it, to a certain point we would shop around for the Reconstructionist that would work well with us.
Carl Morrison: Right and that’s something that most paralegals and especially new paralegals coming out. Now they are at the advent of technology and the internet, and things of that nature. It’s a little easier to find, but back when you and I were of course kids doing this. We relied on networking, we relied on the little index directory of experts. And why don’t you give the listeners maybe two or three little tips on how do you go about finding an expert nowadays even with an advent of Google, how do you find a good reputable expert such as an accident reconstructionist?
Anna Buchner: I try to stay local as much as I can, so I do utilize the internet the majority of the time, because it will cut down on costs associated with it. And then after I find one that may fit our needs, then we do some research on the company itself, and on the individual, and what their background is, and qualifications. Some are engineers, some have the background of being a law enforcement officer, and going through the training that way. Ideally you want somebody that can fill all the niches that you need, but that’s not always going to happen.
Carl Morrison: From the accident reconstructionist standpoint Ken, how do you promote yourself? How do you get out there besides having the typical standard webpage and things of that nature, social media, if you have social media account, how do you get out there, get your face out there, how do you get known?
Ken Buchner: Well initially, it was begin through a website, but primarily I had a lot of contacts after 21 years in law enforcement, some of the defense attorneys that I would be up against as a deputy, they had left say the public sector if you will, public defender’s office, and had gone into private practice, some went to plaintiff side whichever it didn’t matter.
So I have that to help me, but also the year right after I retired I worked for, like I said, a private investigator, and so I used a lot of his contacts. After that it was a matter of going around and knocking on the door and always taking little — little tidbits for the girls upfront because face it, if you don’t get past the gatekeeper you don’t get to the people who makes the decisions.
Carl Morrison: As a paralegal we know that.
Ken Buchner: That’s right. So and then after that it was primarily word-of-mouth.
Carl Morrison: Right.
Ken Buchner: If you continue to do a good job, you should be continuing to work. But I have a theory that I practice and that is that I’m going to tell you what you need to hear not what you want to hear. So if your client is not being forthcoming with all of the information and that comes out during the investigation of the reconstruction, you need to know that as soon as possible to one, we’re going to take this case in a different direction or maybe you even need to terminate the relationship with the client.
Carl Morrison: So talking about this kind of made me think of a question I really want to ask you in the light of challenges, dealing with, if their client is not going to be forthright with the attorney and the attorney is not going to be forthright with you, it’s hard for you to be able to give a truly, scientific, expert qualified opinion.
So what do you find to be your biggest challenge of working with lawyers and paralegals in that kind of aspects of getting all the right information, getting everything you need to be able to give a full opinion?
Ken Buchner: Through the discovery process I try to get as much information I can whether it be police reports, witness statements, supplemental reports, depositions and interrogatories, answers, criminal complaints, the normal stuff.
Carl Morrison: Right.
Ken Buchner: What I find a lot of times lacking is that I get the deposition, there’s 120 pages of deposition, that’s great, but somewhere in there they say, well let’s refer to plaintiff, plaintiff exhibit number seven, there’s no exhibits.
So now I have really no idea what they’re talking about that, that’s one of the issues, failure to maintain evidence is probably one of the biggest issues.
Failure to maintain evidence is probably one of the biggest issues. They don’t maintain the car, they allow it to be repaired, released, totaled out, the insurance company has it, it’s tied up, whatever, you can’t get to it. If you don’t have the evidence, you can’t examine it, and then you have to rely on what law enforcement did at the initial scene and sometimes that’s lacking also.
Carl Morrison: Right. So Anna, from the paralegal’s perspective, same question, what are some of the challenges of working with an accident reconstructionist and working with an attorney, besides all the other normal stuff that we do, but in the same vein that we were talking about with Ken, so Anna, what are some of the challenges you see?
Anna Buchner: I like to give the reconstructionist or any expert for that matter everything and anything they would possibly need upfront. A challenge I have is some attorneys, they don’t need that, they don’t need this, they don’t need that. Well, the more information they have, the better job they can do for us. Working with the reconstructionist that doesn’t give me their whole list of what they need is a challenge too.
So for example, I am one that will start in a storybook fashion. Here is the police report, this is what led to the complaint. Here is the answer, amended answer, here is your interrogatories, here are the responses to them, requests for discovery, all of that is provided to the expert to make their job as easy or run more smoothly — not easy, but run more smoothly.
Carl Morrison: Right.
Anna Buchner: And then if they do need something in more detail, I usually have it or I can research it and find what they need. So a challenge could be not having a reconstructionist or an expert just tell me what they need upfront.
Carl Morrison: And that’s a big thing for a paralegal to know, especially listeners that are kind of new or maybe stepping into the civil litigation world, dealing with an accident reconstructionist or any expert like you said Anna. The understanding that you may have to find out, ask the questions, ask the questions of the expert, what is it that you need in order to give the opinion that you need. Get the list from them, then correspond with your respective supervising attorney and go okay, Ken says that he needs the following things, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and the attorney says, well, he doesn’t need E and he doesn’t need G. Okay, well, perfect.
Some attorneys, it’s a cost issue, I know, the reason why they don’t always want to give some things upfront, but it’s also the paralegal to me, it’s the paralegal’s duty to ensure that they talk to and not always question. You know your boss better than I do, but I will say as a recommendation question and go, okay, well, can you explain to me why E and G don’t need to be given to the expert? And nine times out of ten it’s a valid reason and you understand and you go, okay, got it. I am going to give him these things.
And then you get your list of stuff, you see you are missing E and G, hey, I am missing E and G, do you not have that? Well, then the attorney can turn around and say hey, the reason why I didn’t want to give it to you is because of this, it’s privileged or it’s because of A, B, C D, whatever the reason is.
Ken Buchner: Then it’s very understandable. One of the other drawbacks that I get is I get photographs. I love photographs. Photographs tell a great story. Sometimes I get those photographs as PDFs and they are really hard to work with, or I will get black and some white copies of photographs, which depict a lot of nothing. It’s hard to discern things on things like that. So if I can at all get the original or copies of the original digital images, the videos, anything that’s like that, that greatly helps me, and saves me a lot of time frankly.
Carl Morrison: And we are talking about, and in my mind all I am hearing myself scream to myself is communication. Communication is the key and as a paralegal it’s vitally important that you communicate, communicate with you Ken, as the expert, case manager, Anna, the attorney, communication is vitally important, because you don’t want to slow down the process. You want to make sure that as the expert you are able to get all your stuff quickly and accurately and get everything you need to do to be able to give the report, because we all know there is a deadline that is attached to when that report has to be drafted and submitted and exchanged with opposing parties.
So communication, communication, I am going to say this one more time, communication.
Ken Buchner: Communication, very much.
Anna Buchner: And that is true, Carl, and anything that we do, we have to communicate, because as paralegals we work under the guidance and direction of an attorney.
Carl Morrison: Correct, absolutely.
Anna Buchner: And if we don’t communicate with them and they don’t give us that guidance and direction, we are not getting anywhere and we are not helping the attorney, we are not helping the client.
Carl Morrison: Right, absolutely.
Anna Buchner: So it’s very vital. Communication is very vital.
Carl Morrison: So I was in another session and there is an app for the listeners that is attached with this particular conference that we are in. So there’s all the message boards and posts, people posting pictures from their sessions they are attending, and I was doing mock trial this morning while Ken, your two sessions were going on, which I really wanted to go to and I was torn between which one to go to. But I saw someone post pictures of the actual, what I call the black box.
Ken Buchner: The black box.
Carl Morrison: So what is a black box, for someone that may be new, what is a black box, when I say that?
Ken Buchner: Okay. The black box in the automotive industry is something — it was a name that was applied to an event data recorder by the media. Now, the term refers back to the airlines, which is a recording device that records all of the airplane’s mechanical issues; the voice data recorder, everything. So if it’s going on in the airplane, it’s being recorded during the entire flight time.
Carl Morrison: Right.
Ken Buchner: The media has applied that term to the event data recorder. So you have all this misinformation out there that it is Big Brother spying on you, they know what you did last night, they know what your conversation was, they know where you were, the date, the time, all this kind of misinformation. When in reality what it does is it takes a snapshot of a period of performance of that vehicle at a given time. What time? We don’t know. That’s part of the analysis process is making sure that that data is for this crash that we are looking at.
It is a small box, maybe an inch high, three or four inches square. It’s usually bolted somewhere in the center of the vehicle, either on the drive shaft tunnel or under the front driver passenger seat, and it’s in a very secure location. So that’s basically it in a nutshell.
Carl Morrison: It’s funny because exactly what you — I mean like I said, I have done this before, so I know what the black box is and I am using air quotes here folks, but the black box, the EDR is, and it’s not what people think it is. It’s really just a snapshot of a particular period in which — and it could be the braking, it could be the fuel injection, it may be recording specific things and performance about the vehicle at a specific time. And it’s your job as the accident reconstructionist to look at that data, analyze it and determine what is it saying about the particular vehicle.
Ken Buchner: Yes.
Carl Morrison: And it’s funny because I have been doing this for — back in the early days when the advent — I remember when the advent of the EDR was happening and that it was very simple, the type of data that it was recording. And now you think about vehicles within the past — manufactured in two or three years, there is a lot of different things that it can record depending on —
Ken Buchner: Correct, when the EDR was initially used in 1996 with General Motors vehicles, it recorded very little data. And we would get a report that is maybe three or four pages and at least one solid page of that was what’s called hexadecimal data, which if you are a program coder you will know what I am talking about.
Then, if you go to today’s vehicles, I may get a report that is 65, 70 pages long. It will record everything from steering angle, roll rate, rotational velocity, Delta-v, brake switch status, speed, percent throttle, braking, such a variety of things, you can hardly even name them anymore.
Carl Morrison: So paralegals that are listening, don’t panic, don’t freak out when you are hearing all this stuff. That’s why we have the Ken Buchners of the world to assist us in understanding and breaking it down and being the translators to the data that we deal with.
So we are getting pretty much end of my show. I always have a fun question that I have to ask my guests, so I get to ask two different fun questions.
Ken Buchner: Okay.
Carl Morrison: So Anna, start with you, ladies first.
Anna Buchner: Yes sir.
Carl Morrison: If there was going to be a movie about your life and I’m going to say, I’m going to narrow it to a certain period of your life, in your 20s, who would be the lead actress to play Anna Buchner? Who would you want to play your role if you could be Erin Brockovich?
Anna Buchner: Katharine Hepburn.
Carl Morrison: Oh good one, and why?
Anna Buchner: I’ve always liked that woman.
Carl Morrison: I could see, I’m sitting here looking at Anna, I’m going I could see Katherine Hepburn playing you, yes, that’s a good choice, yes.
Anna Buchner: She’s a classic, classy — classic and classy actress and woman.
Carl Morrison: She is. She is. Okay, I am going to ask you a hard one, Ken.
Ken Buchner: Okay.
Carl Morrison: You’re in the hot seat, so you got a box of Crayola crayons, what color would you be and why? You had to pick a color, what color crayon would you be?
Ken Buchner: That is not — that is a tough one. We’re going to narrow the box of Crayola because we’re going to go not from the 128 thing with the — with a little sharpener, we’re going to go to the little eight box, with eight colors.
Anna Buchner: You have to deal with yourself.
Ken Buchner: I am going to go with primary colors, I would say probably, I must say red.
Carl Morrison: Okay you’re going to laugh, because I was thinking in my head red. I could see you saying red. So why red?
Ken Buchner: One has to be bold in a lot of things that they do and red to me symbolizes being bold and wanting to get out there and do things; although, one of my favorite colors is blue. Blue reminds me of being passive. I am not real passive. I tend to be somewhat aggressive which would be indicated by my military and law enforcement career, so.
Carl Morrison: I think that’s why before the show you and I were talking and Anna and I were talking it’s like yeah, I could probably red because it is a bold color and I see you as a very bold individual so.
Ken Buchner: Thank you.
Carl Morrison: Listeners, that’s all the time we have for today’s show. I want to thank both you guys to Ken Buchner and Anna Buchner of Collision Reconstruction Associates for being my guests on today’s show.
So if anyone wanted to get in contact with you or have any questions, how would they do that? What’s the best way to get in contact with you?
Ken Buchner: Generally via telephone for me.
Carl Morrison: Okay.
Ken Buchner: That phone number is area code 775-622-4128 or through my website which is being currently rebuilt, should be up at the end of the month and that website address would be www.cranevada.com.
Carl Morrison: Fantastic. Anna, same?
Anna Buchner: Same contact information.
Carl Morrison: Same contact, okay.
If you have, paralegals if you have any questions definitely, and shoot them to me as well, but definitely reach out to them. So thank you guys so much for being on the show today. I really appreciate it.
Ken Buchner: Thank you.
Anna Buchner: Thank you.
Ken Buchner: Thank you for the invite.
Carl Morrison: So that’s all the time we have for this episode of The Paralegal Voice brought to you by the generous support of NALA, CourtFiling.net, Legalinc and ServeNow. Thanks again once again to the sponsors and thank you to our listeners for tuning in.
If you really like what you’ve heard, definitely you do of course, please rate and review us in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.
Of course, I’m Carl Morrison, the host to The Paralegal Voice and if you have any questions of me or the guests, you can send them to me as well, send them to [email protected], that’s [email protected].
Until next time, thank you for listening.
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