Nature of the Incident
Our Insurer client’s policyholder was driving a brand new VW Golf when a single vehicle road traffic collision occurred.
It was reported by witnesses that during this journey the vehicle had been driven erratically and at speed. A loss of control occurred, with the vehicle veering from the road and striking a substantial tree, causing severe damage to the vehicle and injury to the driver. The driver of the vehicle alleged that the loss of control was due to defective steering.
TRL was instructed by a major UK insurer to carry out a mechanical inspection of the VW Golf as well as extract and analyse the electronic data.
TRL Expert Witness View
A full mechanical inspection identified there were no mechanical issues within the braking and suspension systems, or with the wheels and tyres.
A detailed inspection was made of the steering system, including the steering wheel, steering column and steering rack. All were secure, with no excessive freeplay or movement. There was collision related damage to the steering rack, but this did not prevent it moving smoothly and progressively from lock to lock.
The tyres were inspected for evidence of fine erosion to the tyre tread blocks that could indicate a failure or significant concern in relation to the geometry of the front suspension and steering; no such indicators were observed.
The operation of the Electronic Power Steering (EPS) assistance was conducted using diagnostic software to determine its functionality, record sensor outputs and read and interpret any Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) information. This progressive approach confirmed that the steering system had not suffered a loss of power assistance.
In addition to diagnostic data and testing our expert was able to recover a comprehensive dataset from the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder (EDR). The EDR data indicated that immediately prior to the initial loss of control the vehicle had an indicated road speed of 94 mph, with the road speed over the prior 5 seconds being a maximum of 110 mph; far in excess of any UK road limit.
The EDR also reported that the driver had selected to disengage the Electronic Stability Control Programme (ESC) a system that, subject to the limitations of physics, may have prevented the collision from occurring, being designed to mitigate the potential for a loss of control.
The EDR also reported the electronic operation of the steering and steering angles. This information was able to support the results of the mechanical inspection and diagnostic data in that, across the 5 seconds immediately prior to the initial loss of control and collision, the EPS was reported as having been operating correctly.
Additional information in relation to seat belts
As well as providing information relative to the dynamics of the collision the EDR data was used to corroborate the findings of the physical examination of the vehicle to determine which, if any, seat belts were in use when the collision occurred, a useful factor when investigating injury claims.
The results of the mechanical inspection and the vehicle data acquisition were reported to the client. These provided evidence which contested the driver’s allegation of a steering defect.