Car accidents are some of the most stressful situations you can find yourself in, no matter your experience as a driver or the injuries suffered. Whether you sustain some minor bumps and bruises or become paralyzed, you deserve compensation for your injuries. A car accident lawyer can investigate the crash, collect evidence, speak to witnesses, review your medical records, and build a case on your behalf so you can focus all of your energy on recovery.
Car Accidents Usually Involve a Negligent Party
In what might seem like an obvious statement, most car accidents will have a negligent party. Someone usually causes the crash because of mistakes behind the wheel. Even if two or more drivers involved share some form of fault, one of them will likely have the majority of the blame.
What is the Negligent Driver Responsible For?
Among other things, the negligent driver in a car crash is responsible for paying:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Funeral and burial costs if the accident was fatal
Who Determines Fault in a Car Accident?
Multiple entities can investigate fault for a car accident. These include police agencies, insurance companies, and the court. When various entities discuss and determine fault, things can become murky in a hurry. This is why you should consult a car accident lawyer about your case.
Determining Fault in a Car Accident
It can be incredibly challenging to determine who was the at-fault driver in a car accident, but there are ways to make this determination. They include reviewing the police report, looking for traffic law violations, and looking at the location of damage to the vehicles involved.
Review the Police Report
If the police responded to the accident, the officer who filed the report will likely give their opinion in the report regarding who caused the accident. If this section of the report is left blank, you will need to dig deeper into the situation to determine the fault.
Look at Violations of Traffic Laws
This can be one of the easiest ways to determine fault in a car accident. You might have watched the vehicle that hit you run a stop sign or red light before the collision. Or, you might have seen the car cut in front of you while changing lanes without using a turn signal. If a driver breaks a traffic law and then causes an accident, determining liability is pretty cut and dried.
Check For the Location of Damage to the Vehicles Involved
In many car accidents, the location of the damage on the vehicles involved can be an indicator of who caused the crash and should be held liable. For example, if one vehicle has damage in the rear and the other vehicle sustained damage in the front, you can conclude that the vehicle with the front-end damage was at-fault.
However, the vehicle with the rear-end damage might have caused the crash if it backed into the other vehicle without first checking its surroundings. Police officers, insurance adjusters, and crash investigators all look at the location of damage when determining fault in a car accident.
How Do Police Officers Determine Car Accident Fault?
Police officers who respond to a car accident have a lot of work to do from the minute they arrive. The first thing they should do is check the drivers and passengers for possible injuries. They will then typically begin speaking to witnesses and other people involved to find out exactly what happened. The officers will then use the information provided to determine who is at fault for the crash.
The officer will then create an accident report that has an opinion about who might have been at fault for the crash. It is important to note that if there is a mention of fault in the report, it does not mean that the driver will be held accountable in a court of law. The fault determination in a police report is not final.
How Insurance Companies Determine Fault in a Car Accident
If the insurance company gets involved in the accident investigation, it will use its own policies and procedures to determine who it believes bears fault for the accident.
The adjuster assigned to the case will often:
- Research the crash
- Speak with all of the witnesses
- Review the medical records of the people involved
- Review the damage to all of the vehicles in the crash
- Verify that all of the insurance policies of the drivers involved are active and accurate
Once they have completed all of this, the insurance adjuster will determine who was at fault for the car accident. In some car accident cases, the insurance adjuster will assign a percentage of fault to each driver that helps determine how much money the insurance company will pay to the claimant.
The Process Courts Use to Determine Car Accident Fault
The other entity that determines fault in car accidents is the judicial system. If you cannot recover enough compensation from the other driver’s insurance company, you can file a lawsuit for damages. If the case winds up going to trial, the court or a jury will determine fault for the crash. Either a judge or a jury will review the facts of the case and then determine which party was to blame for the crash.
What Evidence Helps Determine Fault in a Car Crash?
There is a myriad of evidence that we can use to determine fault in a car crash, including damage to the vehicles, the debris field, videos, witness testimony, driver statements, forensic analysis, and the injuries suffered by all involved.
Damage to the Vehicles
One of the most significant factors in determining who is at fault for a car accident is damage to the vehicles involved. If the driver’s door is crushed or smashed into the frame of the vehicle and the other vehicle’s front is hit, it is likely that the striking vehicle has damage in the front and t-boned the other vehicle.
Videos and Other Surveillance Footage
With today’s technology, video cameras are everywhere, including in the hands of just about every person who walks the planet. Police officers and insurance adjusters should request video footage from nearby businesses and homes to help determine who caused the car accident. You might also find video evidence from people who witnessed the accident if they happened to be recording the area when it occurred.
Testimony From Witnesses
The easiest way to figure out who is at fault for a car accident is by obtaining testimony from witnesses. With so many people out and about on foot, on bikes, and in other vehicles, someone indeed had to see the accident happen. Witness testimony can go a long way in proving who was to blame for the accident that left you injured.
Statements From the Drivers
There are some accidents where the at-fault driver will simply admit fault when the officer asks what happened. Others will blame everyone else for their actions. Statements acquired by the police from the drivers involved can help determine who caused the crash. The police will need to differentiate between truth and lies, as some drivers will lie about what happened to avoid paying a claim or traffic ticket.
Suppose the accident was severe and resulted in a fatality. In that case, the authorities will likely bring an accident investigation team to the scene, and the road will be closed for upwards of four hours. An accident reconstruction analysis will take place. This is when trained individuals take pictures, videos, and measurements of the vehicles, debris, skid marks, and other items to determine vehicle speeds, stopping distances, and other aspects of the crash.
The Injuries of All Involved
A driver can be at-fault for a car accident and still have suffered an injury. However, the review of the injuries of all those involved can help determine fault in a car accident. The best way to use your injuries in your favor is to seek medical attention following an accident. Your attorney will closely review your medical records, as will the insurance adjuster and defense attorney. If you were given discharge instructions for home care, be sure to follow them closely, or else you can put your case in jeopardy.
Compensation You Can Recover in a Car Accident
If you suffered an injury in a car accident, you can file a claim to recover compensation. The compensation you can receive depends on the severity of your injuries, the level of negligence of the at-fault driver, and other factors.
In a car accident claim, you can recover compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Loss of wages and benefits
- Loss of future earning potential
- Loss of consortium
- Rehabilitation costs
- Ambulance fees
- Legal fees
What if I Lost a Loved One in a Car Accident?
Car accidents can end with the tragic loss of a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or bicyclist. If your loved one died in a car accident, you should speak with an wrongful death lawyer about filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver. You can begin the process once the at-fault party has accepted fault or a court has determined them to be at fault. A wrongful death lawsuit will help pay for the funeral and burial expenses of your loved one and the loss of their income, loss of their companionship, and more.
The Statute of Limitations
It is important to note that each state has a statute of limitations when filing a lawsuit against a negligent party. For example, in Colorado, the statute of limitations is just three years from the date of the accident that left you injured. If you miss the filing deadline, the court might dismiss your case unless you have an extenuating circumstance that only a court can approve.
How Will a Car Accident Attorney Help My Case?
You are not required to have a car accident attorney represent you when filing a claim or a lawsuit against the at-fault party, but it will give you a better chance of success. Plaintiffs who an attorney represents typically receive higher compensation awards than those who represent themselves in a case.
A car accident attorney can help your case by:
- Collecting evidence of the crash
- Speaking to witnesses
- Obtaining the police report
- Reviewing your medical records
- Obtaining expert witnesses to testify on your behalf
- Handling all communication with the insurance companies
- Writing and sending demand letters
- Explaining the legal process to you
- Answering all of your questions thoroughly
- Providing you with regular updates on the progress of your case
Above all else, a car accident attorney can help you focus more of your time on recovering from your injuries instead of worrying about the legal situation.
How Much Is My Car Accident Claim Worth?
It is difficult to put a number on this question because every car accident is different from the last. Every car accident injury is also unique, with its own treatment needs. Every level of fault and the coverage of liable parties will vary. Some cases might warrant punitive damages, though most will not.
Until you speak with a car accident attorney about your case, you cannot get a solid answer to this question. Many car accident victims underestimate their losses, leading them to accept low settlements. Never risk leaving money on the table you likely didn’t know you deserved. Instead, have an attorney calculate the value of your claim.
Injured in a Car Accident? Talk to a Car Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries in a car accident, you need to protect your rights immediately. Call a car accident lawyer to discuss your crash and file a claim. When you work with an attorney, you increase the chances of a successful outcome and receiving the amount you need.