A car accident can happen in the blink of an eye. Sometimes things happen so quickly it’s hard for a driver to actually know what happened or who is at fault. Yet determining fault in a car accident is crucial to any insurance claims a driver may file for either damage to the vehicle or medical bills.
Here are six factors that play a role in determining fault in vehicle crashes:
Always call the police for any accident, even a small one. Sometimes damage to your vehicle or bodily injury isn’t evident at the time of the crash, but shows up later. Therefore, it’s important to always have a written police report of any accident.
The police will look at the accident scene and talk to drivers and witnesses to make a professional determination of who is at fault. However, some police reports do not include a determination of fault. It’s also important to understand that even if a police report states who was responsible for a car accident, this does not automatically mean that the person will be held legally responsible for damages in a subsequent lawsuit.
Both the police and insurance adjusters use evidence at the accident scene to gain clues about who may be at fault. The length of tire skid marks, where vehicles ended up in relation to each other, lane markers on the road, traffic lights, stop signs, and other factors are used to determine how the accident may have unfolded.
Photos and videos taken by drivers or witnesses immediately after the crash can also provide evidence of which driver may be at fault. It’s always a good idea to take your own photos or video if you are able and if the traffic conditions allow you to do so safely.
The police report should include any statements made by witnesses. It’s also a good idea to collect the contact information of any witnesses right after the accident in case they cannot stay on the scene long enough to talk to the police. These witnesses can be contacted by an attorney if needed.
Don’t make comments about the accident at the scene. It is often human nature to want to apologize to another person, even if you are not at fault. However, that apology could be interpreted as an admission of fault. Limit any discussion with other drivers and witnesses to exchanging information and simply stick to recounting the facts as you remember them when making a statement to the police. It’s best not to make a statement to any insurance company, including your own, until you have consulted with an attorney.
Often, assessing where damage is located on the vehicles involved can help establish who is at fault. For example, a rear-end collision will show the damage to the back of one car and the front of the other. Even the color and location of paint scrapes can provide information.
Learn more about how to protect your rights after an accident on our complete car accident page. You can also contact David E. Gordon, a car accident attorney who serves Memphis and Northern Mississippi, for a free case evaluation using our easy online form.