How is fault determined in the case of a car accident?
For most people, getting into an accident is not a question of if but when, and having information on how to determine fault can make a big difference when handling a car accident case.
In some cases, the fault is straightforward. In others, you may have to work harder to prove it, making involving a lawyer critical. This article looks into the different avenues for determining fault and may be an excellent read for you.
Gathering evidence about the accident
Evidence is critical in determining fault in an accident. So, gather as much of it as possible, starting with accident scene evidence. Use your smartphone to document the scene in pictures and video while paying attention to vehicle damage, positions, skid marks, registration plates, etc.
Besides at-the-scene evidence, you may also want to look for third-party evidence, such as dash cam footage from another vehicle or CCTV footage from nearby buildings. This evidence helps your lawyer and insurance adjusters determine who’s at fault or the level of fault of all parties involved.
The police report
A 911 call brings paramedics and the police to the accident scene. Once on the scene, the police will evaluate the scene evidence from their perspective and write a report.
The report acts as the official record of the accident. It contains information such as the accident’s date, time, location, conditions on the road, vehicle damage, sketches and photographs of the scene, and every aspect of the accident that can help determine fault.
It also includes the state of the drivers at the time of the accident. For example, if they were intoxicated, distracted, speeding, etc. While a police report may not be enough to prove fault, it helps add weight to it.
Someone besides you and the other driver may witness your accident. These people can provide reliable accounts based on what they saw, which can help your lawyer and insurance adjusters determine fault. For example, they could help point out actions such as reckless driving, tailgating, distraction, illegal overtaking, and violating traffic rules.
While witness accounts can be subjective, having several witnesses with almost similar accounts can make your job much easier. Witness accounts have more weight when collected immediately after the accident. So, if you can, do not leave the accident scene without recorded accounts, which you will use later to jog the witnesses’ memory when navigating your case.
The drivers decide
Insurers advise policyholders not to admit fault in an accident, even when it could be obvious. Still, some drivers may admit fault in an accident sometimes due to the confusion that comes with being in an accident or when they are remorseful for the harm caused.
If a driver readily admits fault, your job becomes so much easier. Valid admission of the fault must be more than he said, she said. It must be documented, for example, in a police report or properly documented. Otherwise, they could claim they never admitted fault.
Expert witnesses are subject matter experts called in to help determine fault in an accident. They usually derive their findings from the available evidence, such as photographs, video footage, witness accounts, etc.
For example, a reconstruction expert can recreate an accident from the evidence at hand, helping all parties get an idea of what may have transpired and, ultimately, fault. Due to their expert status, their opinion commands significant confidence and is very effective at tilting the scales where the fault is in dispute.
Fault determination can occur at any stage of a personal injury claim. In the most contested cases, the determination is left to the jury. As such, you do not want to approach a personal injury case alone, as you may not know how your case will play out.