ANNAPOLIS — When portions of a Wiseco Bombardier exploded two years ago, the manufacturer launched an investigation into the cause.
The case is still winding its way through the court system. Meanwhile, a replica of the Seadoo personal watercraft sits in the Annapolis headquarters of CED Investigative Technologies, where a team of engineers put it through a series of tests to determine the root of the problem.
This accident reconstruction case is among one of roughly 1,200 sent to the engineering firm’s six locations each year. A majority of the incidents deal with machinery, construction and automobile accidents. They normally work for the manufacturers and have investigated everything from coffee maker meltdowns to train accidents.
“It’s sort of like CSI,” CEO and founder Clyde Richard said. “If it’s a defect, we have to identify the defect. We have to tell them what the problem was, and why the problem occurred.”
Their work comes at a time when federal agencies are warning consumers about the dangers of using counterfeit air bags and companies like Toyota conduct voluntary safety recalls to millions of vehicles. Through technology, the field is filled with computer software, mapping equipment and information databases that make accident reconstruction simpler than it had been in the past.
The Accident Reconstruction Network has 14 member companies in Maryland. Aside from CED, there are three others in Anne Arundel County — Severn-based JMH Associates Consulting, TransCon CSI in Annapolis and R.J. Squire & Associates Inc. in Pasadena. Both JMH Associates and TransCon CSI use the work of current and retired police officers.
Baltimore lawyer Robert Hebb is a frequent CED client. His firm represents companies that use or rent heavy equipment, so the engineers may be called in to examine equipment to make sure its operating properly. In accident cases, the team is called in to investigate what caused the accident and determine if the other side has a claim.
“A lot of times, there’s an accident (and) nothing is investigated (beforehand) and two years later there’s a lawsuit,” said Hebb, principal litigator at Semmes, Bowen & Semmes. “They do a thorough job (at CED) and if they think there’s a problem with my case, they’ll let me know. It helps me because I can evaluate it better.”
Richard, a mechanical engineer, launched the firm in 1987, while he was a professor at the Naval Academy. At the time, there were no cellphones or email. He worked with a staff of five and his investigated scenes on site, with film cameras.
Their work has morphed to offices in Cleveland, New York, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville, Fla. There are 20 engineers in Annapolis, with a support staff if 15. The Annapolis location also includes a space on Hudson Street that is stored with evidence from ongoing cases.
“If you’re averse to going to new places and meeting new people, this would be a terrible job for you,” CED President William H. Dailey III said. “If you’re on the timid side, this is not a good job for you. If you’re inquisitive, like mystery novels, then this is the job for you.”