Car Accident Liability
Car accidents can range from devastating multi-car pileups to fender benders with delayed soft tissue injuries. Regardless of the type of accident, FindLaw's Car Accident section contains helpful information and resources if you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident. Articles cover topics such as first steps after an accident, how to prove (or avoid) fault, car insurance claims, contributory negligence in car accident cases, and tips on hiring a car accident attorney to help protect your legal rights. You will also find links to product recalls relating to automobiles, driving safety, crash statistics, and more.
After an Accident
When a car accident happens there are things you should do regardless of who was to blame. Activities following an accident are usually intended to document the incident to ensure you are fairly compensated and to avoid acts that might create or increase your liability for the incident.
Documenting an accident includes calling the police, exchanging information, talking to witnesses, contacting your insurance company, taking pictures, getting property damage valuations, and documenting your medical treatment. Actions that reduce liability include staying at the scene of the accident, checking on all drivers and passengers, and exercising caution when discussing the incident.
Our pamphlet on first steps after an auto accident can be printed and stored in your automobile to help ensure that you don't create trouble and expense for yourself, miss an opportunity to gather evidence, or undermine your attempts to be compensated for an accident that wasn't your fault.
Proving Fault in a Crash
Insurance companies in particular are interested in determining who was to blame for a car accident. How they make the determination has to do with some specific considerations. Understanding how liability is determined can help ensure that you don't end up footing the bill for someone else's mistakes. The police officer's report of the incident, state traffic laws, and the type of accident can all figure heavily in the determination of liability.
If a police officer responds to the scene of the accident they will likely file an incident report. The report includes their observations at the scene and whether either party received a citation. Obtaining a police report can help prove your version of events and help settle insurance disputes. Obtaining a copy can also reveal whether the report has any errors. Factual errors can be corrected if you have evidence that shows the officer was mistaken. Other errors that involve the officer's opinions can be more difficult to have removed or changed, though it is often possible to add your statement to the record.
State traffic laws can also determine key issues, such as which driver had the right of way. Also, some kinds of accidents are highly suggestive of fault. Rear-end collisions are very common and in most situations if you are hit from behind the other driver will be held responsible. Similarly, the driver making a left-turn will likely be held responsible in the case of an accident because the cars in the lane they cross generally have the right of way.
Fault can be a complicated issue. In some jurisdictions fault may even be split between parties. A knowledgeable attorney can help prepare and present your case to ensure that you are appropriately compensated or effectively defended.