Determining Fault in Car Wreck
Car accidents are very common, with more than 6.7 million car crashes occurring in a recent year, resulting in more than 36,000 fatalities. These accidents also caused injuries to nearly 1.9 million people in the same year.
Our car wreck lawyers highlight considerations and steps to take after a car wreck for which someone else is at fault.
Establishing Fault in Your Car Accident
Any party who causes a car accident due to negligent, reckless, or intentional acts may be held responsible for resulting injuries.
Some of the most common causes of car accidents involve:
- Speeding or driving too fast for the conditions
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Distracted driving
- Careless or reckless driving
- Failure to follow rules of the road such as staying in the proper lane, yielding the right of way, and obeying traffic signals or signs
To recover losses for injuries caused by a car wreck, a victim needs to establish the fault of another party or parties.
Common At Fault Parties
Victims should be aware of the following potentially responsible parties:
- Negligent driver. If another driver’s negligent actions (or failure to act) caused the car accident, they might bear responsibility for a victim’s injuries. Violating any traffic law or regulation is strong evidence that the driver acted negligently.
- Negligent driver’s employer. If the negligent driver was driving as an employee, their employer might bear responsibility for the vehicle accident, too. Pursuing recovery from an employer is often advantageous, as employers are more likely than private individuals to have a robust insurance policy to cover the full extent of a victim’s injuries. However, a difficulty may arise with this option if the employee was not acting within the scope of their duties at the time of the accident. A car accident lawyer can investigate and help you make the most robust possible case.
- Vehicle manufacturer. Vehicle manufacturers are responsible for testing their product and taking other measures to ensure it is safe for the road. If a manufacturer fails to exercise due care, they may be held responsible for injuries caused by their product’s defect. Proving a manufacturer’s negligence often requires input from an expert and additional investigation.
- Local government. The local government must safely maintain local streets and traffic signals such as stop signs, crosswalks, and traffic lights. If a car accident occurs because the local government failed its upkeep duties, plaintiffs can seek compensation from the government. Pursuing recovery from government entities can be tricky because the law may protect them from lawsuits.
5 Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Beyond identifying potentially responsible parties, a car accident victim may collect evidence to support their claims and recover compensation. Specific steps can preserve the evidence necessary to bring a strong case.
Of course, the most important thing to do after a car accident is to seek medical care for any injuries, especially life-threatening or potentially-disabling injuries. Car accident victims need to prioritize seeking immediate medical attention for their health and safety. A victim’s delay in securing medical treatment may open up the responsible party’s opportunity to argue that the delay contributed to the injuries, and that should reduce the responsible party’s level of liability.
But, once doctors treat your medical needs, here’s how to preserve evidence and bolster your case:
- Obtain a police report. Calling the police to a car accident scene ensures police create a report. A police report may document important factual details from the wreck scene, witness statements and contact information, and any citations issued for failure to follow traffic laws. All of this information is critical to building a car wreck case. If, for some reason, you can’t secure a police report, take pictures of the accident scene and collect witness contact information.
- Avoid social media. Social media is an increasingly common outlet for all the things in our lives. But victims should avoid posting about a car accident or events after the accident on social media, at least until they have had an opportunity to consult with a lawyer about any such posts. For example, a victim might defeat their case before they’ve filed by posting a picture of the accident with the caption “I should have been more careful!” A defendant would discover the post and use it as evidence that the victim accepted fault for the accident. Even social media posts about a victim’s life more generally after the car accident can hurt their case. For instance, if a victim claims that their injuries have limited their ability to perform certain functions at work, a post showing them out on a hike could backfire against their case, even if the ability to hike does not relate to the victim’s work limitations.
- Stay organized. The paperwork following a car wreck may feel overwhelming—such as medical documents, bills, and communications from insurance companies. Keep track of all paperwork and documents, even potentially connected to the accident. It’s often hard to know what document may serve as important evidence in building a case from the get-go.
- Don’t delay. Car wreck victims dealing with injuries and putting their lives back together may understandably wish to avoid thinking about a lawsuit. But it is important to keep legal recovery a priority, as the law in many states creates a timer for filing a claim. For instance, in some states, car wreck injury victims only have one year to file a lawsuit before they lose the opportunity to seek recovery through the courts.
- Be cautious of settlement offers. A defendant or their insurance provider is likely to make one or more settlement offers before trial. Settlements resolve cases more quickly and provide a guaranteed recovery, but victims should most often not accept the first offer. Furthermore, consult a lawyer about any settlement offer. A lawyer can evaluate the settlement offer against the strength of the case and the extent of a victim’s injuries to make sure the defendants make a fair offer.
Further questions? A personal injury accident lawyer can answer them for you, evaluate your claim, and help you decide what to do next.
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