Exponent provides services to evaluate technical issues in investigations where a person who is in possession of land or premises may be responsible for certain injuries suffered by persons who are present on the premises. Our premises liability investigations span several capabilities, including biomechanics, human factors, mechanical design, and materials science. These investigations may involve slips, trips, falls, and other accident modalities that occur in the work place, hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, and other public places, as well as in residential situations.
Exponent’s biomechanical engineers evaluate injury mechanisms by applying engineering principles to the human body. Our biomechanical evaluation of a premises liability incident most often begins with a thorough review of the medical records and radiological imaging studies (if available). Our engineers use human tissue tolerance values and an understanding of the mechanical loading environment, in conjunction with the documented medical findings, to perform the biomechanical assessment. With these methods, we can often ascertain whether the injury mechanisms for the pathologies listed within the medical records are consistent with an accident scenario, as described in police or incident reports and witness statements or testimony. Some investigations require evaluation of the accident site and the injuries to determine the individual’s position at the time of the event.
We create three-dimensional computer models of an incident scene based on scene measurements and/or blueprints. A model can be a valuable tool in analyzing an individual’s location and orientation at the time of an incident, to see whether critical aspects of the scenario are consistent with the geometric constraints. Additionally, this technology can be used to more fully explore an event that might have been captured on surveillance cameras by allowing our engineers to view the scene and involved individuals from any angle. The computer models can also be used to illustrate the scene as perceived by the involved individual.
Issues of premises liability often benefit from a scientific investigation into how the limitations and capabilities of human cognition, perception, and behaviors shape the way people interact with the world around them. Human performance is shaped by the external environment (e.g., lighting, background noise, spatial layout, signage, etc.) and intrinsic internal factors that govern sensory (e.g., visual, auditory), physical (e.g., body sizes, strength), and developmental (e.g., age-related) systems. Knowledge of human characteristics provides a clearer picture of how incidents happen that lead to premises liability issues.
Exponent’s scientists study and apply research on human information processing, perception, attention, memory, and movement. Our examination often includes consideration of not only normal behavioral capabilities and limitations, but also the effects of fatigue, alcohol and other drugs, stress, inattention, and environmental factors such as darkness and noise level. Additionally, the role and impact of safety information and training on changing human behavior and reducing accidents and injury is a frequent topic of inquiry and an active area of our staff’s ongoing research.
Critical to a complete analysis of a premises liability case is an understanding of the mechanical interaction between a subject and his environment. This can include anything from the friction of a walking surface to the structural integrity of a railing or support. The performance of these components depends on material, design, and construction, and each factor can play a crucial role in the cause and effect of an accident. At Exponent, our in-depth knowledge of materials, combined with our collective breadth of expertise in virtually all areas of engineering and science, is used to understand how these materials perform and why they fail.