Types of Evidence Used to Prove Fault When Hit by a Negligent Driver
While federal law and the laws of every state provide a framework for pursuing financial compensation against a driver who causes an auto accident that results in injury or death, auto accident victims or surviving loved ones must prove negligence to prevail. The process of proving negligence of the other driver can be complicated because it requires familiarity with the laws of the jurisdiction, evidentiary rules, investigative skills, procedural requirements for pursuing a claim, and more. While an experienced auto accident injury lawyer can guide your through this confusing maze of legal standards, requirements, and procedures, the process seems less intimidating if you have a basic understanding of the evidence used to establish the negligence of the other driver.
Although a vehicle occupant might be too injured to gather evidence at the scene of an accident, another vehicle occupant should gather as much evidence as possible. An extensive array of relevant information can be collected at the accident scene, but the priority should be summoning emergency medical responders and law enforcement. The paramedics and/or EMTs can provide emergency care that can both improve the prognosis of injury victims and document apparent signs and symptoms of injury. The police officer investigating the crash should be told information relevant to the fault of the other driver. For example, the other motorist might have failed to stop at a red light or a stop sign. The at-fault driver might even admit to committing a traffic violation or engaging in some other form of unreasonably careless driving. The person who gathers evidence should take photos of any injuries, the relative position of the vehicles, damage to the vehicles, physical evidence like an absence of skid marks, and environmental factors that might have contributed to the collision. The contact information for any witnesses also should be noted at the crash site.
The police report and evidence at the scene often will provide strong evidence of fault by the other driver. The police report will contain photos, witness statements, observations by the officer, and more. The officer typically also expresses an opinion on fault. The officer might even issue a ticket to the “at fault” driver for violating the rules of the road. In our example above, the officer might issue a ticket to a driver who T-bones another vehicle in the intersection because the other driver ran a red light. Alternatively, the other driver might have rear-ended you while you were stopped at a stop sign. In either case, this strong evidence of liability usually will result in the insurance company focusing on contesting damages since the insurer usually will have a weak case for denying the liability of its insured under these types of facts.
Liability tends to be much more hotly contested in most cases because the issue of fault tends to be less clear, so insurance companies will investigate to either shift fault or claim both parties were “at fault”. Insurance carriers have almost unlimited financial resources along with a team of adjusters, lawyers, crash investigators, experts, and insurance defense attorneys. With all these resources at their disposal, injury victims without attorneys do not tend to fair well when they go up against insurance companies on their own. An experienced car accident lawyer will bring familiarity with the applicable law, experience standing up to insurance carriers, knowledge of the value of claims involving different types of facts and injuries, and access to litigation resources and experts when necessary.
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