After a car accident, the determination of fault is everything. It is the difference between receiving financial compensation for your injuries and potentially being legally responsible for someone else’s injuries. This decision either comes from both drivers’ insurance companies or the jury.
Many factors can affect this decision that will make all the difference in your life. The critical thing is to have legal representation at every step in the process, so you cannot be pushed around by powerful insurance companies. When the law is on your side, you will receive a payment if the facts support your claims.
Both drivers have every incentive to blame the other driver for the accident. While your medical bills and property damage may be covered regardless of who is at fault, you need to receive other valuable elements of your damages.
Most importantly, you must have compensation for lost wages or a reduction in your earning power if you have less ability to work. In addition, you also should get compensation for the experience you have gone through after the accident, including your pain and suffering damages.
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Proving Fault Is Essential for Financial Compensation
Unless someone else is at fault for the accident, you will not receive these types of financial compensation. It can make all the difference in trying to keep your head above water financially after a car accident.
You can understand that the last thing a driver needs is the fault for the accident. At the same time, a finding that neither driver caused it won’t help you. If someone else caused the crash, your mission is to prove it, so you can receive financial compensation and settle your claim.
In any car accident case, the burden of proof is on you to show that you are legally entitled to financial compensation. Specifically, you must prove your case by a “preponderance of the evidence.”
This is another way of saying that your side of the story is more likely than not true. You do not need to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. As long as you get to 51 percent, you can win your case. However, if you do not meet your burden of proof, you cannot recover any money. The insurance company will hold you to this requirement, and they will not write any checks without clear-cut proof.
Do Not Ever Admit Fault for an Accident
In many cases, both drivers will try to point the finger at each other for the accident. Very few drivers will completely admit fault for the accident. On the contrary, any personal injury lawyer will tell you never to admit fault for the accident no matter what happened. The second that you admit fault, you may be throwing away your ability to get financial compensation, even if the other driver was to blame. Once you say it, you can expect the other insurance company to use it against you. There is rarely a way to take it back.
It ends up as your word against theirs. Even if you know they caused the car accident, your real concern is what you can prove.
Evidence Will Help You Prove Fault
In any car accident case, the evidence tells the real story. Your word can only go so far, especially if the other driver says something different. If you have something that backs up your side of the story, you may prove the other driver is responsible.
The problem is that it is hard to gather the evidence necessary to prove liability on your own. You may have read numerous pieces of advice telling you to get all the evidence that you can at the scene.
However, you probably are reading this post because an accident already injured you, and you are seeking compensation. Chances are that you were in no shape at the accident scene to take pictures from all angles.
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Helpful Evidence in a Car Accident Case
Nonetheless, you will need proof to back up your claims.
Here is how you can help prove your car accident claim:
- Photographs from the accident scene can help. These can show the position of the cars and the damage and any skid marks. You may not get these pictures yourself. Hopefully, someone could take these before authorities cleared the accident scene.
- Witness statements from people who saw the crash – if you have testimony from an objective third party who has no prior connection with you, it is the most helpful thing for your case. Getting the witness’ contact information after the accident is crucial. If you cannot get it yourself, your best hope is that the officer noted it on the accident report.
- Traffic camera footage if there is any available (footage from a dashcam may also be helpful)
- The police report from the accident, but this is only useful for the insurance claims process. Below, we will explain why you cannot use it in court.
The Presumption of Fault in Rear-End Crashes
There are some car accident cases where there is a presumption of fault. The one that comes to mind most frequently is a rear-end car accident. In these cases, the law presumes the trailing driver who struck the front car is at fault for an accident. However, a presumption is not the same as an ironclad finding of liability. You can always disprove a presumption if you have the evidence.
In a rear-end car crash, the front car may be at fault if they stopped short in front of the rear car or cut them off in traffic. There can be a third party who caused the accident by cutting you off or running into you first. However, to rebut the presumption that the rear car is at fault, that driver will need evidence.
Some lawyers are hesitant to take cases where you struck the car in front of you because it may be an uphill battle. However, it never hurts to talk to a lawyer after an accident, especially if something happens that can leave the other driver at fault. Calling a lawyer for a free consultation costs you absolutely nothing.
Traffic Tickets Can Help Determine Fault
Further, if the police came to the scene and gave one of the drivers a citation, it can also be evidence of fault when you file an insurance claim because it will show what happened. If the driver was given a ticket and pled guilty in traffic court, it can also be evidence in a court case.
However, it is for this exact reason why drivers contest tickets when there has been an accident. Nonetheless, it does not require a conviction on the traffic offense to win your civil case. The two cases have different standards of proof.
Insurance Companies Might Try to Blame You
Insurance companies might try to play games when determining fault. Even if the other driver was responsible, their insurance company might try to blame you. In that way, they cut their bill because they can reduce your financial recovery by the percentage that you were at fault.
Not only may you need to prove that the other driver was at fault, but you may also need to show that you were not in any way at fault. The best way to fight back and stand up for yourself is to hire an experienced lawyer who will tell your side of the story.
You do not have to accept the insurance company’s determination of liability. They do not have the power of a jury over you. They are merely an intermediary, albeit one who has some power to make your life more difficult. The real power in your case is the court system.
You Can File a Lawsuit if Your Claim Ends in Denial
If your claim ends in denial, you may file a lawsuit in court and have the jury decide fault for the crash. You will get your day in court and the opportunity to prove your case that the insurance company denied. In the end, the court might decide your legal rights. Dealing with the insurance company is a way to get your settlement check without going through the lawsuit process.
Of course, nothing says that you must file an insurance claim. You can always go straight to court. However, filing an insurance claim can mean that you save some time. In addition, the insurance claims process is more informal, so there is some evidence that your lawyer can use during the insurance claims process that you cannot use in court.
For example, hearsay evidence rules apply in civil cases in court. This is an evidentiary rule that requires the person who said something to come into court themselves to answer questions. In a car accident case, the police report will not serve as direct evidence of what happened. The police officer will need to testify directly. Even then, the officer did not see the accident directly, and they will just be testifying about what they saw when they showed up at the scene after the crash.
Proving Car Accident Claims Is Not Always Easy
As you can see, proving fault in a car accident is not as simple as just telling your side of the story. Every car accident victim needs to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after their accident for effective legal representation.
It is hard to do anything on your own after a car accident, let alone deal with a legal process that can be complex and difficult, where you are at a natural disadvantage to an insurance company. The only way to level the playing field is to retain an attorney with a track record of helping accident victims recover financially for their injuries.
Time is not necessarily your friend when you are trying to prove a car accident case. Evidence can be lost quickly, and once it is lost, it may be gone forever. For example, you have a limited amount of time to get contact information from witnesses, and then their recollections may fade over time.
If you wait too long to begin the legal process, you will lose key evidence that you need to prove your case. Even if you do not file a claim right away (and you should take time to make sure that you get your claim right), you should at least begin work on the claims process to lock down the proof you need for your case.
The one thing not standing in your way when you need to call a lawyer is money. You will not need to pay a retainer to get a lawyer working on your case. You do not have to worry about paying a lawyer at all. The only time that you will pay a car accident lawyer is if they can help you win your case.
Therefore, nothing is stopping you from calling an attorney. If you did not call one from the accident scene, consult one as soon as possible after you receive medical treatment. The sooner a lawyer is on your case, the better chance you have of full financial recovery for your losses.