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How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

Posted on January 28, 2020 in Car Accidents

One of the first steps toward obtaining compensation for a car accident in California is determining fault. The person who caused the crash will need to reimburse everyone else’s damages. Determining fault, however, can be tricky. A single car accident could involve multiple drivers and crash factors. Understanding and proving fault may take many steps and processes, as well as assistance from professionals.

Through Reports of the Incident

Part of the reason a crash victim should call the police after a serious accident is to receive an official report that documents the important details of the crash: its location, time, the parties involved, eyewitness’ names, a description of the crash, photographs of the scene, and preliminary guesses as to fault or causation. An analysis of police reports, eyewitness statements and official photographs could help a victim or his or her Los Angeles auto accident attorney determine fault for the accident.

After reporting to the scene of the accident, a police officer will interview those involved, talk to eyewitnesses, study vehicle damages, examine the scene and take other steps to piece together how the crash happened. In many cases, the police officer that reports to the scene writes which driver he or she believes is responsible for the crash, in the officer’s professional opinion. This testimony can go a long way toward establishing someone’s fault during a lawsuit or insurance claim.

After an Examination of Traffic Laws

A police officer may also give citations to drivers involved in the crash for breaking the law. Breaking traffic laws, such as speeding and reckless driving, cause many car accidents in California. An examination of the violations involved in the wreck could lead to fault on one or more drivers. If a driver was guilty of drunk driving, for example, a conviction could serve as strong evidence of that driver’s fault for the collision. Convictions, citations and fines can all serve to help a victim prove a driver’s fault.

It is also important to look at the legal doctrine of negligence. Negligence and fault go hand in hand in auto accident claims. Finding out which party was negligent could lead to the identity of the liable party. Negligence refers to a driver’s breach of duty of care, such as taking his or her eyes off the road to send a text message. Finding proof of negligence can allow an insurance company to place fault with that party.

By the Location of Damages

A thorough examination of each vehicle’s damages can also help determine fault. How each car sustained damage could paint a picture of how the crash occurred. Damage to one car’s bumper and the other’s fender, for example, can demonstrate a rear-end collision. Where one car struck the other in an accident could serve as proof that one of the drivers was not where he or she legally should have been. Examining vehicle damages can help experts reconstruct the crash to demonstrate which driver did something wrong.

Using Medical Records

Some car accident claims involve disputes over whether the victim sustained his or her injuries in the car accident or elsewhere. Medical records can provide clarity. Submitting medical records, diagnostic reports, x-rays, test results and letters from physicians can help establish that the injuries are characteristic of those someone would suffer in an auto accident. Medical expert testimony is also an important type of evidence during an injury claim.

With an Attorney’s Help

Hiring an attorney after a car accident can help a victim establish and prove negligence, causation and damages. A lawyer will have the experience with car accident cases to know how to bring and litigate these lawsuits in California. A law firm will also have significant resources, such as connections to investigators, crash reconstructionists, doctors and car accident experts to dedicate toward the case. While it is especially important to hire an attorney for a complex car accident claim, most personal injury lawsuits can benefit from legal representation.