Proving Fault in Auto Accidents

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 Proving Fault in Auto Accidents

If a person is involved in an auto accident, proving that the cause was the fault of someone else is critical. The automobile insurance company of the person who is at fault must pay for repairing all of the damage and providing medical care to anyone who was injured. In some cases, the person who was not at fault needs to file a civil lawsuit for negligence against the person whose fault caused the accident in order to recover adequate compensation.

For a person to say they know it was not their fault is not good enough. A person needs solid evidence, such as dash cam footage and witnesses, that someone else was negligent or careless and that this carelessness caused the accident. Below are some places a person can look for credible support for their position.

Police Reports

If the police came to the scene of an auto accident, they probably filed a report. It is also possible that a person themselves or another person involved in the accident filed a police report. It is important to obtain a copy of these reports and review them.

Often, a report contains the officer’s opinion of what happened, who was at fault and whether the officer issued any citations. Any mention of a particular person being at fault provides evidence of fault. If a police officer issued a ticket for traffic violations, this can provide strong support for a person’s claim that the other driver was at fault.

Traffic Laws in the State of the Accident

A person can also find support for their claim that another driver caused the accident in their state’s traffic laws. A simplified version of these laws can usually be found at the website of the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state where a person lives. A person can search out laws that may apply to the accident in which the person was involved, such as speed limits and right- of-way laws. If a person finds a law that they feel applies to their accident, the person can copy it, note where in the state’s traffic code the law is and how it is identified, e.g. by number or letters..

Hopefully, however, a person has waited at the scene of their accident for the police to arrive. This is the best way to proceed. Then the police might help by citing the other driver for a traffic violation. If the other driver is cited for a traffic violation, this is going to be a strong aid in establishing the fault of the other driver.

Situations Where the Other Driver is Almost Always at Fault

There are some situations in which the other driver is very likely to be found at fault in almost all cases. These situations include the following:

  • Rear-End Crashes: If a person has been rear-ended by someone else, it is highly probable that the other driver was at fault. A basic rule of driving is for a person to make sure they have enough room to stop safely, if the car in front of them slows or stops suddenly;
  • Left Turn Accidents: If one car is making a left turn, the turning driver is very probably going to be liable for a crash with a car heading straight in the opposite direction. In this situation, it is considered clear that the turning drive did not wait until the lane was clear to make their turn.

Still, a person needs to be alert for situations in which another driver intentionally causes an accident in such a way as to make it appear to be the person’s fault. Unfortunately, this is an increasingly common type of insurance fraud.

One common criminal strategy for those intent on committing fraud is to force a rear-end collision by passing in front of another driver with little space between their cars and then slowing down precipitously. Sometimes a second car moves into place next to the rear driver and prevents them from changing lanes to avoid a crash. This causes a rear-end collision, which the defrauding driver will insist was the fault of the driver who rear-ended their car. But, of course, it was not.

The driver who intentionally caused the accident may then enlist the care of a doctor who is less than entirely ethical and provides extensive care for “soft-tissue” injuries, e.g. whiplash, that cannot be objectively documented but cannot be objectively excluded either. And there may be a number of passengers to claim similar injuries in the car also.

They get all they can from the insurance company of the rear driver, and the rear driver ends up paying increased auto insurance rates. This is one reason why it is a good idea to invest in a dash-cam, especially if a person does a lot of driving in dense traffic in urban areas.

Other fraudulent accident schemes involve two cars operating in concert, one to block a left or right turn and another to crash into the turning driver. The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers the following advice to drivers to avoid becoming the victim of a fraudulent accident scam:

  • Do Not Tailgate: a person should leave plenty of space between their car and the car ahead of them;
  • Call the Police: If a person has been in an accident, they should call the police immediately to the scene and wait for the police to arrive;
  • Document Damage and Occupants of Other Vehicles: A person should document the damage to their car, including pieces of the car lying on the roadway using their cell phone or a camera. A person should also document the number of occupants in the other vehicle. Criminals often pack their car with co-conspirators in order to inflate the value of their claim;
  • Avoid Doing Business with Service Providers Who Appear Suddenly at the Scene: A category of people known as “runners” and “cappers” may appear suddenly at the scene of an accident and try to direct a person to particular doctors, attorneys, and tow trucks, but they are usually part of the criminal enterprise;
  • Avoid Certain Doctors: A person wants to be suspicious of doctors who insist that they file a personal injury lawsuit after an accident, especially if the person is not seriously hurt;

Insurance professionals say that criminals are more likely to target new, rental, or commercial vehicles because they tend to be better insured and it is insurance money that these criminals are after. Rental cars can be identified by their special license plate numbers. Additionally, criminals look for women driving alone and senior citizens; apparently the criminals think they are less confrontational at accident scenes.

The employees of insurance companies who investigate insurance claims for automobile accidents are called “claims adjusters.” An insurance claims adjuster checks for insurance fraud using various methods, the most common of which include:

  • Police Reports: Insurance adjusters analyze the reports of police officers who reported to the scene looking for any suspicious information, including inconsistencies;
  • Statements Made by Parties and Witnesses: Insurance adjusters interview the people involved in a vehicle accident and make a record of their statements. They compare these statements against the statements made by all the parties involved, as well as those of any witnesses;
  • Doctor’s Reports: Insurance adjusters analyze the doctor’s reports that accompany a person’s insurance claim, looking for medical evidence to support claims of injuries;
  • Social Media: Insurance adjusters search social media sites for people who boast about the crimes they have committed on their Facebook or Twitter pages. They look for evidence, especially pictures, which show people engaged in physical activities that they should not be able to do with the injuries they claim to have suffered;
  • Research on Databases: After an adjuster has collected all the information about an accident, they check databases shared among auto insurance companies. The adjuster looks for claims involving the same people.
    • The adjuster will compare a person’s current claim against any claims the person has submitted in the past. The adjusters have special training so they can spot indicators of false insurance claims. Clearly a pattern of numerous similar claims raises flags. If the adjuster finds that one person has filed a high number of claims, their investigation becomes more detailed, because that is an indicator of a fraudulent claim..

So, if a person has been in an accident and submits a claim to their insurance company, this is how the claim adjuster proceeds and the kind of investigation they are going to conduct.

I’m Trying to Prove the Other Driver Was at Fault, Do I Need a Lawyer?

Proving fault in an accident can be challenging. This is true whether you are dealing with your own auto insurance company or if you want to file a lawsuit for negligence against the other driver or drivers involved.

An experienced car accident lawyer has done this before and may well have strategies of which you are not aware. They can help you in dealing with insurance companies, importantly telling you when settlement offers are adequate and when they are not, and in court, if legal action is necessary.


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