Ways You Can Prove Fault in a Car Accident


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One of the first questions that arises after a motor vehicle accident is who was at fault. The answer to this question can have a dramatic impact on the parties involved, including which party’s insurance will cover the repairs and damages that the innocent party incurred. Additionally, the party at fault may be subject to fines or criminal liability.

At times, you may be able to provide evidence to an insurance provider or to the court to establish liability in the case. Here are three ways that you can prove fault in your car accident case.

One of the first questions that arises after a motor vehicle accident is who was at fault. The answer to this question can have a dramatic impact on the parties involved, including which party’s insurance will cover the repairs and damages that the innocent party incurred. Additionally, the party at fault may be subject to fines or criminal liability. At times, you may be able to provide evidence to an insurance provider or to the court to establish liability in the case. Here are three ways that you can prove fault in your car accident case.

Research Traffic Laws

Research traffic laws for your state, county and municipality. The Department of Motor Vehicles may have a book that details basic traffic rules. Additionally, state government and court websites often provide links and references to the public regarding this information. Some public libraries and law libraries may have actual state statutes regarding traffic laws. Another good source of law to look for is the model jury instructions for the courthouse in your jurisdiction. These are the basic laws that juries are recited before deciding on whose behalf to rule in a motor vehicle accident case. There may be specific rules that impact your case.

For example, the traffic laws may indicate how many feet one vehicle should be from the vehicle in front of it. Additionally, the rules may state that the person who is behind the other vehicle will generally be found to be at fault. However, a party’s responsibility may be reduced if his or her own negligence was partially to blame, such as having a brake light that was out.

Likewise, there may be a set of laws regarding left-turn car accidents. In most situations, the party who was turning will be found to be at fault in most jurisdictions while the party who was heading straight will generally be found not to be at fault. However, at least some of this blame may shift if the party driving straight ran a red light or was speeding.

Use Police Reports

Police often go to an accident scene if an injury occurred. If an officer responded to the scene of the accident, he or she likely made a police report or incident report regarding the accident. In some reports, the police officer may opine who was at fault. It may contain mention of objective evidence and an analysis of that evidence.

For example, it may mention that one of the parties had likely been speeding due to the length of the skid-marks found on the roadway. The police report will also indicate if either party was cited for the accident for the violation of a traffic law. Additionally, if drugs or alcohol were involved, this information will also likely be included in the police report, giving you more proof of who was to blame for the accident.

Inquire with the traffic division of the police department that responded to the scene to get a copy of the report. Even if an officer did not initially respond to the accident scene, the police department may later conduct an investigation into the cause of the accident. This information can be helpful in determining fault.

Examine the Evidence

There may be more objective evidence at the scene of the accident than the parties’ personal recollections. One source of evidence is the damage done to the vehicle. It is important to document this information before the vehicles are repaired. Take pictures at the scene of the accident, if possible.

The location of the vehicle damage may be revealing. For example, if there is front-end damage to one vehicle and back-end damage to the other, this can help establish that the accident was a rear-end collision, even if the parties do not agree on this matter.

Likewise, if there is front-end damage to one vehicle and front-end damage to the right-side of the other vehicle, generally a left-turn accident is to blame. Towing records and records from the repair shop can also help substantiate the areas where vehicles were damaged.

If any witnesses were at the scene of the accident, asking them to write down a description of the accident along with their contact information can also help you to get a more objective observation regarding the incident.

If you are able, take pictures to help prove your version of events. Take pictures of the accident site, any nearby traffic signs and any debris in the roadway. Try to take pictures from different angles for a broader perspective. Additionally, try to show scale in the picture by having something that is easy to measure featured in the picture, such as a sign or a dollar bill.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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