Marine Litigation Sees Upswing in Larger Monetary Judgments

As the technology of the boating industry improves and the technology of boating accident reconstruction keeps pace, so has the seriousness and complexity of boating accidents. Likewise, monetary jury judgments resulting from boating incident litigation have skyrocketed in recent years to record amounts.

ATA Associates was hired to analyze a recent California case that produced a record $32 million judgment to the plaintiffs, who were thrown from a boat and struck by the propeller. The jury found the boat manufacturer’s vessel defective in awarding the plaintiffs the record sum.

In a 2008 California case, a woman who was permanently brain injured when struck by a jet ski watercraft was awarded $21.7 million. The jury found that the jet ski could not be properly steered when the operator eased off the hand controlled throttle.

The investigation and reconstruction of boating accidents is a unique forensic discipline. The advancement of devices and technologies with which to measure and analyze forces and behavior involved in a boating accident has greatly improved the thoroughness and accuracy of the information collected.

Robert Swint, founder and CEO of ATA Associates, Inc., one of the nation’s leading experts in marine and watercraft accident reconstruction states:

“With the trend toward larger monetary damage awards, the necessity for thorough and complete analysis and accurate accident reconstruction of a boating incident becomes increasingly important. Here at ATA Associates, our engineers and technicians have developed techniques for instrumentation, photography and position tracking that support precise and definitive analysis of test data that provides for convincing testimony to support litigation actions.”

Advanced forensic technology and testing can be applied to a wide range of marine vessels including runabouts, fishing boats, ski boats, houseboats, pontoon boats, jet skis and amusement craft as well as commercial craft, such as commercial work vessels, tug boats, freighters, passenger liners, touring boats and floating restaurants.

In addition to the field and laboratory testing, ATA Associates also performs operational analysis along with crash and impact angle determinations. Additionally, we offer full multimedia graphics support, including full 3D animation.

ATA also provide services in government and industry standards application, human factors and safety analysis. We can also provide counsel as to warnings and marine signage, naval architecture and marine engineering.

ATA Associates also offers safety informational programs to the general boating public. “2 Seconds to Survive” is a program aimed at outboard boat owners and is focused on the proper setting of the outboard motor trim tab and the serious consequences if the trim tab is not properly adjusted. This short program is free to the public and can be viewed on the ATA Associates website at: http://www.ataassociates.com/Marine.htm

ATA Associates CEO Interviewed by National News Regarding Recent Roller Coaster Fatality

Our CEO, Robert Swint, was interviewed Monday, July 22nd, live by CNN, CBS and taped for broadcast by Fox News concerning the recent roller coaster fatality at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.

Swint, considered a leading expert in amusement rides, was asked if the victim’s weight and size may have contributed to the accident. He commented that size and weight are considerations that need to be accounted for in ride design and operations and that a ride’s retention system should work properly for all individuals placed on the ride. Restraint design for amusement rides is typically based upon a 95th percentile physical profile to comfortably accommodate the vast majority of a ride’s potential users. However, there is always a possibility that individuals who are larger than that 95th percentile profile will use the ride.

CNN Interview

 CBS Interview

 Fox News Broadcast

At this time, details of the cause of the accident have not been released.  

The 14 story Texas Giant roller coaster has been closed until further investigation and analysis by the amusement park into the accident has been completed.

ATA Associates, Inc. has been involved in amusement industry accident reconstruction for over twenty years. In addition to analysis, testing, instrumentation and inspection support, our on-site graphics staff can create outstanding 3-D graphics to correctly diagnose and analyze amusement park accidents.

For additional information about the company’s capabilities, go to:
www.ataassociates.com

For additional information about ATA’s background and capabilities in amusements services, go to:
ATA Amusements Services

 

ATA Associates Releases Important Information for Outboard Boat Owners

The proper setting of the trim tab located near the propeller of an outboard motor can, literally, be the difference between life and death.

The trim tab, properly adjusted, can keep the boat running straight should the operator take his or her hands off the steering wheel. If the tab is improperly adjusted, the boat may veer sharply to the right when the wheel is released.

This sudden action can throw an unaware passenger and even the boat operator out of the boat and into the path of the spinning propeller.

The results can cause terrible injuries or death to persons being thrown from the boat.

An Informational Program

ATA Associates, Inc., a forensic engineering firm, has made available 2 Seconds to Survive, a public service informational DVD program aimed at outboard boat owners.

The two and a half minute program, which is available to boat owners at no charge, focuses on the proper setting of the outboard motor trim tab and the serious consequences if the trim tab is not properly adjusted.

The program was written and narrated by Robert Swint, founder and CEO of ATA Associates, Inc. Swint, a boating expert for over forty years, believes it is valuable information for all outboard boat owners and operators.

Available at No Charge

The DVD program, 2 Seconds to Survive, is available at no charge from ATA Associates. Contact Ken Krueger at 281-480-9847 or e-mail: kruegerk@ataassociates.comor go to www.ataassociates.com to review the program.

A Clean, Forensic Environment…For Vehicle Inspections

Remember when inspecting an accident vehicle meant a long uncomfortable day in a wrecker yard in all kinds of weather? It might be boiling hot in the summer time, freezing cold in the winter. The threat of being drenched by a sudden spring storm when you were only halfway done with the inspection forced you to work faster than you wanted to. You worked under filthy conditions in vehicles that may have been sitting for months in the elements, coming in contact with all kinds of ill tempered, biting critters that have made that vehicle their home.

 

A Clean, Forensic Environment.

ATA Associates, Inc. continues to offer a Technology Center with a clean, forensic environment in which vehicle inspections may be conducted in relative ease and comfort. The 7500 square foot inspection area or “Hi Bay” has space enough to accommodate vehicles up to 18 wheelers and offers a comfortable, temperature controlled area, air conditioned in summer, heated in winter, in which to conduct thorough vehicle  inspections.

Inspecting in a closed facility such as this offers protection for the vehicle and inspectors and protects parts of the vehicle that are discovered to be significant pieces of evidence which must be preserved.

The inspection area is evenly lit for video recording and still photography. Power outlets are conveniently spaced throughout the Hi Bay.

Services and Tools Available

Among the documentation capabilities available are FARO Laser Scanner Focus3D tool; ECM/CDR (Black Box) data downloads; precision photography and videography; Digital Data Acquisition; Electrical testing; optical inspections and microscope image analysis.

A variety of tools, both in metric and U.S. Standard, such as wrenches, power saws and jacks, are available for disassembly and cutting apart vehicles.

A 10,000 pound vehicle lift and a 10 ton overhead crane are available to lift and move heavy vehicles for better access and underside inspections. A 60 foot gridded wall and floor provide an area for precision photography.

A well-equipped on-site shop is ready to fabricate test jigs and specialized pieces for unusual circumstances. Tables and chairs are on hand for the comfort of participants as well as restroom, kitchen and private office space.

In an adjoining area, a precision microscope and vented laboratory hood are available for detailed study and testing.

For additional information, contact Andrea Roberts, Director of Sales, ATA Associates, Inc. – 281-480-9847 or e-mail: robertsa@ataassociates.com.

 

Positive Action in Emergency Situations!

 What to Have on Hand in an Emergency

Since 1972, ATA Associates has offered its clients a service called Quick Response, which is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. A Quick Response is an immediate action to travel to an accident site and take photographs, shoot video and survey the accident area. We also collect evidence and document the available facts of the accident. 

To do this successfully, ATA’s Quick Response crews must be ready at a moment’s notice to be on the road and fully equipped to do the job. To be at this constant state of readiness demands a certain amount of pre-planning and pre-packing. No one can be expected to remember every piece of equipment they will need in the field when time is of the essence.

With that in mind, ATA Associates has developed an extensive set of check lists that are used by ATA crews to gather necessary equipment and accessories needed for almost any type of quick response situation in the field.

Living in the Gulf Coast area, experience has also been gained through coping with the trials of mandatory evacuations, such as hurricanes, flooding and petrochemical plant processing issues. Recent disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast have heightened awareness and emphasized the severity of the problem.

Using this organizational experience, ATA has developed a series of check lists that anyone can use to create “Quick Response packs” and organize supplies such that they can be available in the case of an emergency situation, either natural or manmade.

The Quick Response packs and supplies would provide the means to sustain a person/family through an extraordinary situation.

These check lists have been developed as a guide to the supplies one might need to help sustain managed existence and personal safety in an emergency and are available by clicking here and can easily be printed out.

For more information, contact Ken Kruegerat 281-480-9847 or e-mail: kruegerk@ataassociates.com

 

 

Holiday Gatherings Offer Great Fun and Opportunities

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

With the Holiday season upon us once again, it is a great time to reflect on the events of the year past, to look forward to the coming year and new opportunities and to thank our clients for the chance to serve them.

On December 5th, Bob Swint, ATA’s CEO, Anita White and Andrea Roberts attended a holiday party at the offices of Abraham, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto and Friend at 800 Commerce Street in Houston. We have successfully worked with this firm for many years.

The festive affair was well attended and offered us a time to renew old friendships and make a lot of new ones.

ATA Associates Tests Coast Guard Vessel Involved in Boat Accident

In December 2009, during the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights nighttime boat parade in San Diego, California, a 33 foot U.S. Coast Guard special purpose craft struck and ran over a smaller recreational vessel carrying 13 people. As a result of the crash, an eight year old boy died and four others were seriously injured.

ATA Associates, Inc. was employed to help defend the operator (coxswain) of the Coast Guard vessel.

The coxswain’s defense included his blockage of view over the bow at lower running speeds, which was the case at the time of the incident. It was the defense’s contention that this type of boat was not fit for the intended use of slow speed night patrolling in waterways where there was a large amount of recreational boating. The bow of the Coast Guard boat rose so high in the air at lower speeds that the stern light of the smaller recreational vessel in which the victims were riding could not be seen by any of the crew of the Coast Guard vessel.

ATA Associates boating experts conducted tests in the San Diego Harbor under both daylight and nighttime conditions.

Using a self-contained instrument package and a high quality video camera, ATA personnel conducted visibility tests at three selected seated driver eye heights. The seated eye heights were lower average driver eye height, the actual coxswain’s eye height, and the upper average eye height. The instrument package recorded the pitch angle of the vessel via a digital level gauge; the sound level inside the vessel via sound level meter; and electronic global positioning system (GPS) and the recording of the movement of the x, y and z axis of the moving vessel.

The tests were also varied as to the rpm’s of the engines powering the vessel. Tests were conducted at 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500, 3000, 3500, 4000 and 4500 rpm’s, recording the sight picture for each selected eye height and rpm setting. A video camera was set on a tripod next to the coxswain and the boat was loaded as per the weight of the Coast Guard vessel at the time of the incident.

The test results confirmed the defense contention that the boat was not fit for its intended use as a recreational area patrol boat and the bow of the boat rose so high at lower speeds that neither the operator of the boat or the other members of the crew were able to see the other vessel and avoid a collision.

For additional information about ATA Associates, Inc. and the services offered, contact Andrea Roberts, Director of Sales, ATA Associates, Inc. at 281-480-9847 or e-mail: robertsa@ataassociates.com.

TRUCK DRIVER TURNOVER HIGH DESPITE INCREASED FREIGHT VOLUMES

By Andrea Roberts, Director of Sales, ATA Associates, Inc.

Turnover of truck drivers at large truckload carriers reached 108% in the second quarter of 2012, in spite of the fact that freight volumes have increased. That means an average driver spends less than one year at any particular company. Those companies must constantly hire and train new drivers.

New federal regulations have forced companies to improve their safety records. These new regulations have increased the competition among carriers for drivers who are well trained and have good safety records.

Smaller truckload fleets (with annual revenues under $30 million) have also seen rising driver turnover. In only two years, driver turnover for these smaller companies has increased from 49% to 86%, the highest number since the third quarter of 2007.

Analysts suggest the shortage of drivers the trucking industry ranges from 20,000 to 30,000. Others estimate the shortage at 200,000, considering the aging driver population and increases in freight demand. Medical and physical qualifications take many drivers out of the industry. A large number of drivers are facing retirement and are leaving their jobs.

What can be done to put more drivers on the road?

Pay increases do not seem to be the answer. One major company increased driver’s pay fifty percent yet still lost drivers as fast as they trained them.

Another large carrier with a 108% turnover rate opened their own school for training new drivers. This move reduced the company’s rate of turnover to 70%.

Technology is another tool gaining popularity. One company allows driver applicants to use smart phones to apply through the internet or they can apply using a target built into the company’s magazine advertisements.

Still another company guarantees that their drivers will be home every weekend. This reduced the turnover rate to 25% but the company admits the move has cost them a fortune.

The personal approach has been used by several large carriers. An ability to establish a personal relationship with drivers makes a big difference as to whether a driver will stay with the company or leave.

Whatever the cause or solution, a lack of well-trained drivers continues to be a major problem in the trucking industry.

ATA Engineer Presents Program at International Tire Conference

By Andrea Roberts, Director of Sales, ATA Associates, Inc.

 Edward Fritsch, P.E., Senior Staff Mechanical Engineer at ATA Associates, Inc. gave a ninety minute presentation entitled “Examining Tire Related Vehicle Performance in the Context of Civil Litigation” at the International Tire Exhibition & Conference in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, September 20th.

 The presentation reviewed the process of developing technical evidence and opinions for litigation and the admissibility tests for evidence as well as insights into the differences between legal and scientific points of view concerning the development and presentation of evidence.

 The remainder of the presentation focused on tire and wheel performance issues that were raised in four lawsuits in which Mr. Fritsch was involved as a test engineer for ATA Associates, Inc. All of the cases discussed had either reached a jury verdict or were settled out of court, which allowed the technical aspects of the cases to be discussed in detail.

 The presentation was well attended and audience interest was high. A question and answer period followed the presentation and the questions were well directed.

Accident Reconstruction – Choosing an Expert

By Andrea Roberts, Director of Sales, ATA Associates, Inc.

 Choosing an expert for a litigation case is an important decision. It is the expert’s job to help the jury understand technical issues of the case. Clients naturally look for a person or team well versed in their particular field of expertise to analyze evidence and develop opinions for that particular case.

Clients must choose experts with which they are comfortable, both for their knowledge in a particular field; their credentials and experience and for their reputation and integrity.

An expert is expected to review the facts of the case; be familiar with the background or standards of the industry or area in question; formulate and test theories under accepted scientific and industry standards; and refine the results of their analysis into an understandable presentation for the jury.

A reputable expert should not be expected to parrot preconceived theories and ideas of other parties. The evidence presented by an expert should be his or her own unbiased conclusions.

The most important aspect of a good client/expert relationship is constant and meaningful communication.

All relevant facts of the case should be reviewed by the expert before committing to take the case. The client should also communicate any new evidence or pertinent testimony to the expert immediately, to keep the expert from pursuing an irrelevant issue that any new information might discourage.

In some cases, the expert’s conclusions may be found to be contrary to the aims and wishes of the client. In those situations, immediate communication between the client and expert must iron out the differences and, if need be, decide upon new courses of action.

If the client, in the expert’s professional opinion, has a case that the expert believes he or she cannot contribute to a successful conclusion, then it is the duty of the expert to be truthful with the client and decline the case.

The careful selection of the proper expert can bring technical expertise and understanding to the presentation of a lawsuit.