If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident, determining what happened and who was at fault for the crash is not always as easy as many people assume, especially when there were multiple vehicles involved in the crash.
Fortunately, a car accident lawyer has many ways to determine who caused your car accident. Below, we will go over some of them and make sure you understand what you need to do after a car crash to help you get the justice and damages you deserve.
Why Is Determining Liability Important After a Car Accident?
To collect compensation for the harm you sustained following a car crash, you need to know who was at fault for the accident. This is because a motorist who hits your vehicle can be liable for the injuries and losses that result. Consequently, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may be required to pay you compensation for the harm you sustained from the accident.
However, if the insurer does not pay for these injuries or offer a fair settlement, you may pursue a lawsuit against the liable party and go after the financial damages you deserve.
Different Methods That Can Help Determine Who Caused Your Motor Vehicle Accident
Although you may believe you know exactly what happened after a car accident, sometimes the situation may not be as straightforward as you hope it to be. In these instances, determining liability for a car collision may require the use of eyewitness testimony, police reports, video footage, pictures, and expert analysis.
#1. Police Reports
After a car accident, you should call 911 right away. This is not only the fastest way to alert the local authorities of the accident but also the quickest way to get your accident on record.
Once the police officers get to the scene, they will conduct a preliminary investigation into the cause of the accident. This investigation will involve examining the vehicles, looking for clues on the road such as skid marks, verifying the extent of the damages, the point and angle of the impact, checking out road conditions, and the location the vehicles ended up after the collision. In addition, these officers will also interview the passengers, drivers, and any other witnesses who were present about the crash.
The questions they ask will aim to piece together an account of what happened and determine whether the drivers involved in the accident broke any traffic laws. For instance, these officers will try to figure out whether a motorist ran a red light, merged into another lane without checking for other vehicles, or was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
When the officers decide they have enough information, they will create a police report that can identify who was at fault for the wreck based on their professional judgment. They will then submit the report to their department.
Even though a police officer may indicate fault for the crash in their report, this will not automatically hold the person legally responsible for the accident. Instead, the report can be used as evidence or testimony to help your legal case, but it does not determine what happened.
#2. Eyewitness Testimony
In a car accident, potential eyewitnesses can include pedestrians, passengers, motorists not involved in the crash, and bystanders.
Witnesses can help someone looking to bring a legal claim following an accident, as they tend not to have biases toward one side or the other, and they do not have anything to gain financially from the outcome. As a result, their testimony can be especially credible and helpful when determining who caused the accident and what happened in the moments leading up to the accident.
In many instances, eyewitness testimony may also provide additional information regarding:
- The weather conditions at the time of the crash
- The traffic conditions at the time of the accident
- Whether any drivers appeared to be speeding
- Whether any of the drivers appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs (weaving in and out of traffic, erratic driving behavior, or slurred speech)
- Whether any of the drivers appeared to be distracted by their cell phone as they were driving
- Whether any of the drivers ran a red light or a stop sign
As a result, not only can these witnesses provide further details about the accident, but their statements can substantiate your claim. However, if eyewitnesses testify at trial, the judge or the jury must weigh the credibility of each witness and consider what testimony to use when reaching their verdict.
#3. Pictures and Videos From the Scene
Photos and videos of the accident can often provide helpful information regarding what happened and who was at fault for a motor vehicle accident.
For these reasons, if the area is safe and you can do so, try to collect as many pictures and videos of the accident as you can, including:
- Your visible injuries
- The vehicles involved in the accident
- The damages to the vehicles
- The placement of these vehicles on the road
- The location where the accident occurred
- The weather conditions at the time of the crash
- Traffic signals near the area
- Skid marks on the street
- Street signs and lane markings
- Roadside objects and barriers
- Road imperfections such as potholes or spills
In addition, it is also important to check if the accident was captured on any surveillance cameras in the area. A video of the accident is beneficial to your case as it can show what happened and establish liability for the accident.
#4. Medical Reports
The type of injuries you sustained after the accident can also help show what caused the accident and who was at fault. That is why it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible following a collision, even if the injuries appear to be minor. This is because, in some instances, you can be injured and not even realize it. For example, after a car crash, you may have suffered significant brain trauma or internal damages, but the symptoms have not yet manifested. As a result, you may not believe you have been harmed, but the longer you wait to get these conditions examined, the more debilitating and fatal they can become.
In addition, getting checked over by a medical professional can also help your legal case, especially since insurance companies will look for any reason to discredit your injuries so that they can get away with paying you less than you deserve. Consequently, if you do not get medical treatment following your accident, these insurance companies will argue that your injuries are not serious or result from a separate event.
Thankfully, when a medical professional examines you shortly after your accident, these doctors can document your injuries in their medical report—providing you with evidence of a direct connection between the harm you sustained and the car crash.
#5. Expert Testimony
A lawyer may also need to bring in the experts to prove liability and substantiate your claims after a car accident. For instance, accident reconstruction experts may be necessary to piece together certain facts from the accident, such as eyewitness testimony, vehicle damage, and the position of the vehicles after the crash, to figure out who was likely at fault for the accident and how the accident occurred.
Experts can also include medical professionals and financial specialists who can testify to the victim’s injuries, disability, treatments, and expenses to show the extent of their damages following the accident.
However, there are often requirements to introduce this expert testimony. That is why it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your team who understands how to present this testimony and use it in a manner that supports your claim and can help provide liability.
Proving Liability and Obtaining Compensation Following Your Car Accident
If you suffered harm in a car accident because of another person’s wrongful actions, and you proceed to trial, you may be able to pursue certain types of compensation, including economic and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages: These damages refer to the easily verifiable actual losses that result from an accident, such as:
- Medical bills related to doctor visits, hospital stay, emergency services, surgeries, and prescription medications
- Ongoing medical treatment expenses
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Property damages related to repair costs and replacement expenses
- Domestic replacement services such as child care services
- Other out-of-pocket costs
Non-economic Damages: These damages refer to compensation for non-monetary, subjective losses such as:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship and society
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
In addition, punitive damages may also be available. However, unlike the other damages awarded to compensate a victim for their losses and injuries following an accident, punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer for their egregious actions and deter anyone else from committing this act in the future. As a result, these damages are not awarded in every personal injury claim.
Yet, to obtain any of these damages, you have to be able to show that another individual was responsible for your accident and the damages you sustained. That is why, following your car accident, it is important to reach out to a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can promptly get to work investigating your accident and gathering the evidence required to show fault and damages. Additionally, your lawyer can help you fight for the maximum financial recovery that you are entitled to receive.
Get the Legal Help You Need to Prove Fault After a Car Crash
Unfortunately, obtaining all of this evidence yourself may be a challenging ordeal, especially if you suffered extensive injuries from the accident. In those situations, gathering photos from the accident scene is likely the last thing on your mind.
However, with an experienced personal injury attorney on your side, you do not have to worry about securing all of this evidence on your own. Instead, these lawyers can get to work obtaining this evidence on your behalf.
Additionally, once retained, these lawyers can:
- Go over the facts of the car accident with you in detail, determine if you have a viable legal case, and figure out the legal options you have.
- Answer all the questions you have regarding the case and provide you with the legal support you need during this difficult time.
- Thoroughly investigate the car accident and obtain the necessary evidence to prove what happened and who was at fault for the crash.
- Ensure that legal motions are prepared correctly and filed with the proper court before the statute of limitations runs out.
- Hold all the parties responsible for your accident accountable for the harm and losses you endured.
- Handle all the negotiations and discussions with the insurance company and go after a just settlement offer.
- Take your case to court if the other side is unwilling to negotiate fairly and fight for maximum damages.
For these reasons, if you sustained severe injuries in a car accident and you are not sure how to prove fault after the crash, do not wait to get the legal help you need. Instead, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today for a free case evaluation and find out how these lawyers can help you with your case and fight for the justice you deserve.