What factors are used to determine fault in a car accident?
When determining fault for a car accident there are many factors that are considered. While each is important, no one factor is always more important than the others. The relevancy of each is determined on a case by case basis. This is not an exclusive list, but covers the most common factors used.
The Police Report: While the police report is not the final deciding factor used to determine liability, it is maybe the most important one. It is the only report made by a neutral third party by an agency that was at the scene shortly after the accident occurred. It is also the only report that is made after considering the statements of all parties and witnesses.
Insurance companies can deny claims based on unfavorable police reports. Sometimes, however, police reports don’t get it right. Police officers are human too and susceptible to mistakes like the rest of us.
Sometimes other factors, such as the property damage of the respective vehicles, can be used to overcome a bad police report. If you are in an accident but have come to find that the police report was not representative of how the accident occurred, call an experienced personal injury attorney. There is no one size fits all way to challenge bad police reports, but a method may be formulated after reviewing the particular facts of your case.
Property Damage Of All Vehicles: Over the years I have learned that you can tell an awful lot about an accident from reviewing the location of the property damage of each vehicle. I have been able to overturn many unfavorable liability decisions for clients by using the location of the property damage on each of the vehicles to support my client’s accident narrative. This is a particularly good method for challenging bad police reports.
Statements Of Parties Involved: All insurance companies require a conversation with their insured before they take an official stance on liability. Sometimes this can add a delay in their decision, even if the facts seem obvious. If their insured refuses to co-operate, the insurance company will eventually make their decision based on the other factors.
Statements of Witnesses: The police report should contain the name, address, and phone number of any witness to the accident. Most of the time the police report will also contain a witness statement. Witnesses are very important in cases where liability is contested or when something out of the ordinary occurs.
Photographs of The Scene: I always tell people how important it is that photos of the accident scene are taken. In the moment this can be difficult to do. The best photographs show not only the property damage of the cars, but also show the surrounding circumstances. Pictures can be worth a thousand words. If you take a picture that clearly shows the other party couldn’t be telling the truth, you may have won your case!
Surveillance Footage: It is best not to rely on this type of evidence, but if available, it will be considered in a liability decision. The government and local businesses many times have cameras pointing toward the street. Many people think that this footage will prove that their story is right. Unfortunately, it is very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to obtain traffic light footage from the government or surveillance from local businesses if they do not want to co-operate. By the time a lawsuit is filed, and a subpoena is served, this footage may have been destroyed in the due course of business. Surveillance footage is great evidence if available, but difficult to obtain.