When determining fault for a car accident, the involved parties must look at the collision’s evidence. These items may involve traffic camera footage, eyewitness testimony, and forensic evidence. A lawyer may also consult with third-party field experts (like accident reconstruction analysts) to learn more about your accident’s cause.
Knowing how to tell who is at fault in a car accident is essential since most states base crash compensation on fault. Sometimes, it is obvious who made a mistake behind the wheel and caused a crash. In other cases, the victims involved dispute facts, and there are questions about what happened and who caused it.
A good way to determine who is at fault in a crash is to work with a car accident lawyer. They know how to investigate collisions and gather the evidence to show negligence occurred. Then, they use this evidence to hold the at-fault driver financially accountable.
A Lawyer Can Determine What Caused Your Car Accident
Most traffic accidents occur because one driver acts carelessly or recklessly behind the wheel. The other vehicles involved followed the applicable traffic laws and got entangled in the at-fault motorist’s mistake. Many car accidents happen this way.
Consider these examples:
- A driver runs a red light.
- A motorist fails to yield while turning left.
- A driver does not see stopped traffic and rear-ends another vehicle.
In each of these cases, carelessness or recklessness caused a collision and possibly injuries to others. In the legal sense, this is known as negligence. Negligence occurs in many personal injury cases, including car accidents.
Proving Negligence Requires Proving Four Elements
To show negligence occurred, you must prove:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
In a traffic accident, the duty of care generally comes from a traffic law. Traffic laws establish a duty of care by commanding a motorist to behave a certain way to prevent accidents and injuries. For example, with very few exceptions, drivers must stop when a traffic light is red.
The breach of duty occurs when the driver violates the traffic law. A driver who runs a red light breaches their duty of care to other drivers by failing to stop. This greatly increases the chances of a crash.
To be held legally responsible for the rear-end collision, the driver’s breach of duty must be the proximate cause. In other words, the traffic law violation must lead directly to the crash. When a driver runs a red light and collides with a car traveling through the intersection as permitted, the driver who ran the red light caused the accident.
Negligence results in harm. If the victim did not suffer any harm, they do not have a case against the at-fault driver. However, harm can be financial, physical, or psychological. In many crash cases, the victim suffers from all three types of harm.
What Is Liability?
Liability is the word lawyers and courts use to describe being financially responsible for something. In this case, the at-fault driver is generally liable for any expenses, losses, or injuries from a crash. This means the victims file an insurance claim or lawsuit to hold them accountable, seeking compensation to pay for their damages.
Generally, crash victims file a claim based on the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance policy and seek fair compensation for these costs. While most successful cases end with out-of-court settlements, a personal injury lawsuit in civil court is sometimes necessary. Going to trial and presenting evidence to the jury is another way of holding the at-fault driver liable after a collision.
The Role of Distracted, Drunk, or Drowsy Driving in a Car Crash
While distracted, drunk, drugged, and drowsy driving certainly contribute to many crashes, they are not the event that causes the collision. Instead, they lead to the proximate cause of the crash. For example, an intoxicated driver might run a red light because they were looking at their GPS or reading a text message. However, the legal case will hinge on showing they ran the light.
Sometimes, it is possible to support the case by providing documentation of drunk or drugged driving. Distracted and drowsy driving are more difficult to document, but it is sometimes possible.
However, do not panic if the at-fault driver did not get convicted of drunk driving or if there is little evidence to support your distracted driving allegation. While this evidence could help make settling your case easier, it is unnecessary to recover money for the expenses and losses you experienced because of your crash.
Evidence Available to Show Negligence and Liability
Every crash has different circumstances and creates its own set of evidence. However, some of the same types of evidence are generally available in many collision cases if you know where to look. This could require requesting and obtaining documents, working with experts, setting up interviews with witnesses, and even a little detective work gathering and analyzing physical evidence.
These are a few steps an attorney and their team take when handling a car accident case. These are necessary to tell who is at fault, confirm their suspicions, and tell a compelling story to the insurance company or jury.
Some evidence that can point to fault in a car accident case includes:
- The official crash report filed by the police officers or other law enforcement who responded to the collision
- Interviews or other statements from crash eyewitnesses
- A survey of the crash scene
- Accident reconstruction data handled by trained experts
- Physical evidence, such as the damaged vehicles themselves
- Photos from the crash scene
- Videos of the accident, often from traffic cameras, dash cams, or surveillance cameras from nearby businesses
- Relevant medical records to document your injuries and prognosis
- Expert testimony from doctors, specialists, economists, and others
- Documentation of recoverable damages
If you do not have a lawyer representing you, obtaining some of this evidence could be difficult. Businesses are not often open to turning over videos to individuals, and hiring experts to handle surveys, reconstruction, and other parts of the investigation is expensive. Attorneys have large networks of other professionals they work with to build these cases, and they have the resources to pay them.
If you do not have an attorney and find it difficult to gather the necessary evidence to show fault in your car accident case, it is time to consider representation. Lawyers work based on contingency, so you should not have to pay anything upfront for a car accident attorney to work on your case.
How Evidence Supports Your Insurance Claim or Lawsuit
The goal of gathering evidence is to show what happened. With the right evidence to document negligence, liability, and the value of your damages, you could recover fair compensation for your losses. This is why it is important to have compelling evidence before you file a claim. You must show the insurer that its policyholder will likely lose in court if the case goes to trial.
The Role of Your Attorney Navigating This Process
You should consider working with a knowledgeable and experienced car accident attorney near you. Your attorney will navigate the entire process while you focus on healing and rehabilitation. You do not need to try to figure out how to build a case against a careless or reckless driver on your own. Consider these benefits of working with a lawyer:
Lawyers Have Resources and Time for a Thorough Investigation
As a crash victim, you have your treatment and recovery to consider. You have work and other tasks to manage if your injuries are healed. You do not have to spend considerable time and money investigating your crash and gathering evidence against the at-fault driver. You already have enough to worry about.
Car accident attorneys use their firm’s resources to cover the expenses related to investigating a crash, meaning their clients do not need to pay anything out of pocket for this. They also have knowledgeable staff who help them identify, preserve, and analyze evidence, in addition to calling in experts as needed.
Attorneys Have the Know-How and Network to Get Things Done
When a crash victim looks for proof that another driver caused their crash and injuries, they often do not know what they are looking for. When an attorney handles an investigation, they know the evidence necessary and how to use it to develop a compelling case. Not only does this save time and energy, but it builds a more effective case.
Law firms also have networks of experts they frequently use to help them with their cases. These parties could include accident reconstructionists, medical doctors, economists, trucking industry experts, and others. Identifying, hiring, and working with experts is often difficult or impossible for individuals managing their own claims.
Your Lawyer Can Analyze the Evidence and Use It to Tell the Story
Once your attorney gathers the evidence available in your case, they analyze it to determine what it says about the crash. While surprises are possible, evidence generally shows the accused driver caused the crash and is legally responsible. The next step is organizing the evidence to tell the story in the most convincing and compelling way.
The goal is to show the insurance company the strength of the case against its policyholder, so it will negotiate for a fair settlement. When a case goes to trial, the jury hears the evidence and renders a verdict.
The Attorney Will File Your Claim and Seek Compensation
Once your attorney believes they have the necessary evidence to show who is at fault, they will demand fair compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. They may also use your case’s evidence when calculating how much you can seek for certain damages.
Regardless of the case’s strength, the insurance company is unlikely to pay out the amount demanded. It may instead make a counteroffer, starting a series of negotiations between the attorney and insurance adjuster. Your attorney can manage these negotiations, refusing to back down and accept less than you deserve.
Your Lawyer Will Represent You at Trial and Present Evidence as Needed
Some cases require victims to sue the at-fault driver in civil court. This does not mean the case will go to trial. Many still end in a settlement agreement with the insurance company even after beginning the legal process. Yet, occasionally, a case will go to a jury trial.
If this occurs in your case, your lawyer can represent your best interests throughout this process. This includes presenting strong evidence to show fault, liability, and damages to the jury. The jury will then decide what happened, if you deserve compensation, and how much they should award.
You Have a Limited Time to Pursue Damages After a Car Accident
When you work with a car accident lawyer, they do everything possible to secure damages from the liable party. Yet, you have a limited time to file a lawsuit under your state’s statute of limitations. For instance, if you live in Georgia, you generally have two years to file your case under the law.
Aside from the statute of limitations, it’s a good idea to consider prompt legal help because evidence doesn’t last forever. For instance, security camera footage can get deleted. You want to give your lawyer the best possible chance of building a successful case.
Most Law Firms Can Review Your Case for Free
Car accident lawyers generally offer free case assessments. Their teams review case facts with victims to help them understand their options and rights. They also explain how the firm helps those in similar situations seek and secure compensation. Their evaluation of your case could give you a good idea about whether you have a case against the other driver.
If you choose to work with a personal injury attorney in Atlanta, they will gather evidence to help show who caused the collision and is legally liable for the expenses and losses that occurred. An attorney can explain the legal process, your options, and build a case that suits your best interests.