Threshold Vehicle Impact Damage

Posted by in Simple Forensic Methods, Vehicle Impact Damage | July 15, 2019

Most damage to a building resulting from a vehicle impact is relatively obvious because it is so severe; however, as the severity of the damage diminishes at distances farther from the point of the impact discerning vehicle impact damage from damage caused by other mechanisms sometimes become more difficult.  It is at those times that one must remember that impact damage is more likely in relatively weaker or more brittle (less flexible) components of a building, such as, drywall, plaster, masonry, etc. or even previous patching or repairs and one must consider the pattern and/or features of the damage.   

As one gets farther from the point of impact the pattern and/or the features of the damage should be examined and evaluated to determine whether or not they are consistent with the result of a sudden, short term overload from one direction, such as, crushing; chipping; shifting; smooth lined cracking from quick, sudden propagation; diamond-shaped bits of material indicative of racking (a forth and back motion); etc.  The damage should also be examined and evaluated for evidence of recent occurrence, such as, relatively clean surfaces at the crushed or chipped material; relatively clean surfaces exposed along separations or shifting; sharp-edged cracking with relatively clean fracture surfaces; relatively clean bits of loose finish materials commonly called chatter, etc.  

Following are a few vehicle impact damages that were so fine that they could have been easily overlooked:

Figure 1 Sharp-edged hairline cracking. Note the smooth line of the cracking in the brick.
Figure 2 Sharp-edged cracking exhibits chips with sharp edges and clean fracture surfaces.
Figure 3 Smooth line cracking exhibits sharp-edges.
Figure 4 Cracking exhibits chipping with sharp edges and clean fracture surfaces.
Figure 5 Cracking with worn edges also exhibits chipping with sharp edges and clean fracture surfaces.
Figure 6 Base of wall exhibits inward bow at point of vehicle impact, but no cracking.

Sometimes one must literally get down on hands and knees and pull out the proverbial magnifying glass to find the finer threshold damage from a vehicle impact.