Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to tell which vehicle is at fault for causing a collision—especially in accidents that involve numerous vehicles. The determination of who or whom is at fault is even more important two or more motor vehicle operators cause or contribute to an accident that seriously injures other drivers and passengers. Sometime more than one party must share fault.
When it comes time to determine liability for a car accident, eyewitness testimony, traffic citations, arrest records (such as for DUI arrests), police investigations, video footage, pictures and expert analysis can all be helpful.
If you suffered injuries in a collision and one or more other drivers might be at fault, a car accident lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your accident and may help you pursue compensation for your injuries and losses.
Eyewitnesses are individuals present at the scene of an accident who saw what happened. The drivers involved in the accident can testify about what they believe happened and how they felt at the accident scene. Other potential eyewitnesses include passengers, pedestrians and bystanders, and other drivers not involved in the accident.
Other drivers and bystanders who witnessed the accident can be extremely helpful in the event a motor vehicle accident case goes to trial. These individuals typically do not have a bias toward one side or the other, as they do not have anything to gain financially from the outcome of the case. Independent witnesses who do not know any of the individuals involved in the crash can be especially credible and helpful.
Eyewitness testimony can be helpful when determining who caused an accident and exactly what occurred in the moments leading up to the crash.
Eyewitnesses to a motor vehicle accident may be able to testify about any or all of the following:
- Whether any of the involved motor vehicle operators appeared to be speeding
- The relative positions of the vehicles just before and at the time of the actual collision
- The weather and traffic conditions at the time of the accident
- Whether any of the motor vehicle operators appeared to be intoxicated, under the influence of alcohol or drugs (e.g., slurred speech, weaving in and out of traffic, or erratic driving maneuvers), or distracted by a mobile device
- The positions and colors of traffic lights, in the case of an intersection accident
- Whether any motor vehicles ran a stop sign or disregarded some other traffic control device just before the accident occurring
When an eyewitness testifies at trial, one attorney can ask the witness questions about his or her observations, and the other attorney will then have an opportunity to cross-examine the testifying witness. It will then be up to the jury to weigh the credibility of each witness and consider some, all, or none of the witness testimony when reaching a verdict.
Police Citations and Arrest Records
When a motor vehicle accident occurs, one or more of the involved drivers will usually call 911, after which a police officer should respond to the scene. When the police officer arrives, they will usually ask the involved drivers what happened and if they are hurt. The officer will also assist the drivers with exchanging insurance and contact information.
Following the collision—especially if it was serious—the officer may prepare a written police report. The police report should list the names and addresses for all of the involved drivers and passengers, witnesses, as well as relevant insurance information. The report may also state who the police officer believes caused the collision and whether or not the officer issued the at-fault driver(s) a citation or placed a driver under arrest for violating the law. Finally, the report may indicate what the citation or arrest was for, such as DUI or reckless driving.
In a personal injury case that stems from a car accident, any citations or arrests of drivers can be crucial pieces of evidence. In cases involving a liability dispute, these police actions can help to establish who was at fault for the accident. Moreover, at trial, the accident victim’s lawyer may call the responding police officer to the witness stand to authenticate the report, and potentially present criminal records to show that the criminal court convicted a driver of a traffic violation or crime connected to the crash.
Video Camera Footage
Some locations, including certain traffic intersections, have video cameras that record everything that happens at the location, including motor vehicle accidents. Some police officers also carry body cameras that they can activate at certain times. Often, video cameras on nearby buildings capture important video of collisions.
In car crash cases where the responsible driver’s insurance company disputes liability and fault, the accident victim’s lawyer may introduce video camera footage from the accident scene that shows who caused the accident. Moreover, if a police officer’s body camera or a camera on a nearby building picked up video footage of the accident, the accident victim’s lawyer may be able to introduce that footage into evidence, as well.
Car Accident Investigations and Expert Analysis
When it comes to finding out exactly how a complex motor vehicle accident occurred, the accident victim’s attorney may be need to retain the services of a certified accident reconstruction expert. Accident reconstructionists know how to piece together certain facts from an accident, including motor vehicle speeds, eyewitness testimony, vehicle damage, and the positions of traffic control devices, to determine who likely caused the accident and how the accident happened.
Car accident injuries can include a bone fracture, traumatic head or brain injury, spinal cord injury, paralysis injury, or soft tissue contusion. Medical experts can testify about the disabilities, pain and suffering, physical therapy, treatments, and expenses involved in these and other injuries.
When an accident victim’s lawyer calls a certified accident reconstruction expert to testify, the car accident lawyer wants the expert to give their analysis of the accident scene and their opinion about what happened. There are requirements to introduce expert testimony, and it is critical to have a lawyer who understands how to best utilize and present expert testimony in a persuasive manner that supports your claim and liability for your injuries.
There are many ways to determine who is at fault for a crash, and you want the right legal team on your side. For more information about what to do after a serious car accident review Ram Fletcher of Bohn & Fletcher, LLP discuss some important steps to consider after a car accident.