Determining who bears fault for a car accident can prove critical. The at-fault individual’s insurance company will usually take care of the damages related to the accident, including the cost of repairs to the vehicle and medical treatment for any injured parties. However, establishing who hit who in a car accident can sometimes prove difficult, especially if neither party admits liability. You may know that the other party caused your accident but have difficulty proving it.
Determining Liability at the Scene
Sometimes, you may have a clear idea of who caused your accident as soon as the vehicles come to a stop.
You may know, for example, that the other driver committed negligent or dangerous activities that led to the incident, including:
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Rolling backward into you at an intersection
- Rear-ending you
- Failing to yield
- Crossing the center line between lanes, causing a sideswipe collision
- Aggressive driving
- Driving while distracted
- Driving while intoxicated
In other cases, you may find it much more difficult to determine who caused the accident, especially if you need to produce evidence that establishes liability for a later insurance claim.
Contact the Police
Any time you have injuries from an accident or your accident involves property damage, contact the police. If the accident involves serious injuries, you should call 911, which will bring police and an ambulance to the scene.
The police will arrive at the scene and evaluate the accident. The responding officer may talk to both drivers involved in the accident as well as any witnesses. Furthermore, the officer will take a look around the scene to uncover any obvious details that may point to who caused the accident.
Once the officer looks at what likely contributed to the accident, they will write a report. The report will include the date and time of the accident as well as likely liability for the incident. You may find that the police report serves as vital evidence that can help indicate which driver caused the incident.
A Look at the Scene
Often, a look at the scene of the accident can help reveal which driver likely caused or contributed to the accident. You may want to take photos of the accident scene, which can make it easier for lawyers and insurance companies to get a better feel for what likely contributed to the accident.
The Position of the Vehicles
The position of the vehicles can help display which driver likely caused the accident. Suppose, for example, you had a sideswipe collision on the road with both drivers traveling in the same direction. A look at the cars could show that the driver who crossed into another lane of traffic likely caused the accident.
Likewise, a look at the cars after a rear-end collision could help show whether the rear driver struck the front driver or the front driver backed into the rear driver: if the front car sits very far forward from the intersection, the rear driver likely caused the collision, while if the collision occurred well back from the intersection, it could display that the front driver backed up unexpectedly.
The Damage to the Vehicles
Often, the vehicle damage can help display which driver committed an error that led to the accident. For example, in many cases, if one driver T-bones another, the liable driver’s vehicle will have damage to the front, while the other driver’s vehicle will have damage to the side. A sideswipe collision may have distinct damage patterns depending on which vehicle caused the damage.
Take clear photos of the damage to both vehicles, especially if you had to move them out of the way afterward.
Features of the Area
The police officer responding to the scene may want to look at the area’s features. After many accidents, looking at the road and its features can give you a better idea of who likely caused the accident.
The officer may even know that many accidents occur in that specific location due to common factors, including drivers who often roll backward on a hill or poor visibility coming out of a specific intersection. If you can collect photos of the accident scene, include any contributing features of the area in your photos so they can serve as evidence.
Determining Liability After the Accident
Sometimes, you may leave the accident scene with a clear picture of who likely caused the incident and what steps you need to take next to receive compensation. Then, you start your insurance claim, only to realize that the other driver denied liability once he reported the accident.
You still have several options for determining who caused the accident. Contact a lawyer as soon after the accident as possible. A lawyer can help walk you through your rights and how to pursue compensation for your injuries best. Furthermore, a lawyer can help give you a better idea of all the factors that likely contributed to the incident and how you can establish liability, which can help you pursue compensation.
A lawyer, and the insurance companies, may look at several factors to help determine who likely bears liability for the accident.
Photos From the Accident Scene
Those photos you took at the accident scene can prove critical in clearly establishing liability for the accident. The insurance company and your lawyer may want to look over the photos from the accident scene. Photos can help take other parties to the accident scene even though they did not view the accident itself.
Statements From Both Drivers
Frequently, the insurance company will take statements from both drivers intended to help establish who likely caused the accident. Sometimes, one driver will admit to an error that led to the accident, including driving while distracted or speeding.
In other cases, however, lawyers and insurance companies may need to talk to both drivers, listening for any inconsistencies in their statements to help better determine who likely bears liability for the accident. Driver statements about the accident may also reveal unexpected information: for example, the other driver might admit to having a couple of drinks, growing distracted, or speeding because of a rush to reach his destination.
Talk to your lawyer before making any statement to the insurance company. You may feel tempted to brush off some of the negligent driver’s actions or make statements that could leave you partially liable for the accident, although you committed no negligence and the other driver’s decisions clearly led to the incident.
An attorney can help give you a better look at putting together your statement in the most effective way possible, which may help you clearly establish that the other driver’s negligence led to your accident.
In some cases, witnesses may have a clearer look at what led to the accident than anyone else. You might not, for example, have seen a driver that rear-ended you looked down, or noticed a driver who sideswiped you driving erratically due to intoxication.
A witness to the accident, on the other hand, might have more clearly noticed those signs and the associated symptoms. Witnesses may also have better insights into the behavior of both drivers. They may have more clearly seen, for example, which driver crossed over the centerline in a sideswipe collision, or they might note which driver had the green light in an intersection.
Furthermore, witnesses can provide a more unbiased account of what led to the accident. Sometimes, the drivers involved in an accident want to paint themselves in the best light possible. A witness may provide a more accurate view of all factors that contributed to the accident, including any factors that might help you clearly show how the other driver’s negligence led to the incident.
Your lawyer may want to interview any witnesses to the accident as soon as possible. Witness memory often fades over time, particularly if the accident involved particular trauma to the witness. The sooner you collect witness statements, the more accurate those statements may prove.
Video footage can often provide the best look at what factors likely led to an accident. Not all accidents have video footage available. However, sometimes, one or both drivers may have dash cams that can better look at the factors that contributed to the accident. In other cases, you may be able to access traffic camera footage or even security camera footage from local businesses.
If you intend to look for video footage of your accident, you may want to have your lawyer make that request as soon as possible. Most companies do not keep video footage for a long period unless they have reason to. The sooner you request that footage, the better the odds that the company will still have the footage.
Examining the Damage
In disputed liability cases, it can sometimes be difficult to show exactly what led to the accident clearly. If the other driver caused your accident but will not admit liability, and you do not have adequate evidence from the scene to establish the other driver’s negligence, you may need an expert witness to recreate the scene.
Accident experts can help look over the damage caused to both vehicles and provide a better account of what likely led to the accident. Those experts may also visit the accident scene to better understand where it occurred. An expert can recreate the accident scene in a highly effective, visual manner to make it easier for both parties to understand what likely contributed to the incident.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Establish Liability for a Car Accident?
Determining who hit who in a car accident can prove much more complicated than anticipated. You should contact a lawyer to help you establish liability and fight for the compensation you may deserve any time you suffer injuries in a car accident, regardless of what evidence you may or may not have regarding liability.
You may also need a lawyer if:
- The other party, or the other party’s insurance company, disputes liability for the accident. If you accept liability for the accident, you could miss out on the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
- The other party’s insurance company denies payment for the full extent of your injuries and damages.
- The other party’s insurance company tries to delay the claim.
Working with a lawyer can help you establish exactly who caused your accident. Furthermore, a car accident attorney can help streamline the claim process, which means you get money for the damages you sustained in your hands faster. Trying to handle the claim alone, on the other hand, could ultimately lead to less compensation or might even mean that you miss out on the compensation you deserve altogether.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible After Your Accident
If you suffered any injuries in a car accident or faced substantial property damage and have a hard time getting the other party’s insurance company to pay out the compensation you deserve, do not struggle through your claim alone. Contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible to get help establishing liability for your accident.