If you’ve been in a car accident, you probably know that the person found to be at fault can be required to pay damages to anyone hurt in the accident, including compensation for pain and suffering. But the question is, how do you know who was legally responsible for causing the accident?
This question does not have a simple answer. Insurance companies, personal injury attorneys, accident engineers, and many other professionals spend considerable time trying to assess fault. Insurance companies often try to essentially trick people involved into saying something that makes them look like they are admitting fault. But determining who was truly at fault involves consideration of a great deal of evidence. So let’s examine what that evidence might include.
Look at the Police Report
One piece of evidence that carries a lot of weight in determining fault is the police report filed after the accident. The report contains the responding officer’s notes about what they observed at the accident scene. Generally, a police report will include the basic information such as when and where the incident happened, who was involved, and details about the vehicles involved. In addition, the report usually includes information about the road conditions, weather, and lighting at the time.
The report will often describe details of the incident such as the damage to vehicles and property, a diagram of the scene, and the officer’s suspicions about whether one party had been speeding or negligent or whether alcohol or drugs may be involved. Finally, the report should also include information about individuals injured in the accident and whether they were taken to the hospital.
The officer’s opinion about what happened can be very convincing, although it may be possible to present evidence to override that opinion.
Talk to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney or Other Professional
Personal injury attorneys spend most of their careers assessing and proving fault for vehicle accidents and similar incidents. An experienced attorney knows where to look for the best evidence and how to interpret that evidence.
Insurance adjusters often know how to interpret evidence to assess fault, but it is not in their best interests to provide an honest opinion. Instead, it is generally their job to point out the factors that would keep the insurance company from paying much if anything for a claim.
Piece Together Evidence from Photos and Traffic Camera Footage
If a traffic camera or security camera captured images of the accident or incidents leading up to the accident, that can help determine how drivers were behaving and whether that behavior was responsible under the circumstances. While video may be the most helpful, still photos can capture critical details. Skid marks may reveal a driver’s actions before or during a collision. Photos can also show if a third party could be responsible for the accident for reasons such as creation of an obstruction that blocked vision on the road.
Weigh Testimony from Witnesses and Drivers
You have your own recollections of the accident, and hopefully you wrote those down. Your observations at the time of the accident are more valuable as evidence that what you may recollect later, because human memory can be faulty.
If you or your attorney have interviewed witnesses, their observations can be helpful in determining what happened and whether a driver was acting irresponsibly. The other driver’s memories can also help piece together the puzzle. However, humans can edit what they choose to say to limit information to that which is in their best interests. Sometimes, people avoid the truth to create the reality they wish had happened. The power of suggestion can be very strong, so if someone suggests that one car cut off another or was driving erratically, then that’s what a witness may “remember” seeing even if they actually did not notice such behavior at the time.
Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC Can Help You Determine and Prove Fault After a Car Accident
At Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC, we have decades of experience collecting evidence, assessing information, and proving fault for car accidents. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in an accident in Northern Virginia, D.C. or Maryland, we would be happy to talk to you about who may be at fault. Contact Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC at (571) 532-9070 for a confidential free consultation and case evaluation.