How is Fault Determined in a Car Crash?
Most car crashes occur due to negligence. That is, car accidents are usually the result of unintentional violations rather than intentional conduct. As such, it can often be difficult to determine who was actually at fault in a car crash. In any motor vehicle accident lawsuit, courts may examine many different forms of evidence to determine fault and liability.
Some forms of evidence may include:
- Physical Evidence– I.e., skid marks, paint on the car, damage to the car’s bumper or fender
- Witness Testimony– this may include statements made by bystanders, eyewitnesses, victims, etc.
- Photos or video of the accident– this is especially common due to photo and video technology built into cell phones, as well as the increased frequency of dash cam usage
- Police reports– these are often entered as evidence during trial to supply important details surrounding the accident
- Traffic Laws– these will be consulted to determine whether any road rules were violated in the crash
- Insurance claims– policies may reflect dollar amount of economic damages)
- Hospital documents– these can often determine the extent of the injuries and how the injuries were sustained
- Accident reconstruction– computer programs can simulate and “re-enact” the accident to help determine who may have been at fault
- Any other statements, documents or physical items that would tend to prove or disprove that a party was at fault
Thus, in any car crash claim, such pieces of evidence will be analyzed in great detail in light of the applicable personal injury laws. These laws can vary by state, but most jurisdictions have similar rules when it comes to the admission of evidence in personal injury claims.
What if the Victim is Also at Fault?
Another issue in some negligence cases is that the victim can sometimes be at fault as well. For example, if both cars ran stop signs just prior to the collision, it can be difficult to determine which party should pay the other damages.
In such cases, courts may employ certain legal doctrines known as comparative negligence or contributory negligence. Depending on the jurisdiction, if the victim is also at fault, they may have their damages award reduced. In some cases, the victim may even be prevented from claiming a damages award due to the fact that they were also liable.
The specific applications of such laws will vary by state, and can often be somewhat complicated. In most cases, the advice of an expert witness and the guidance of a lawyer are needed to resolve any issues involving comparative or contributory negligence.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Assistance in Filing a Car Crash Claim?
Filing a lawsuit for a car accident can be very challenging. You may wish to contact a lawyer promptly if you need assistance with filing a car crash claim. An experienced personal injury lawyer can provide valuable assistance when it comes to determining fault. For example, your attorney can help identify which laws will apply in your case, and can help you anticipate various issues that will arise during the lawsuit. Personal injury laws are very different from area to area, so it’s to your benefit to contact a qualified lawyer for help with the specific rules in your state.