One of the foremost considerations after a car accident is figuring out who was at fault. In most cases, each party will blame the other for causing the crash. So how does the court determine which party is responsible for paying damages? One way is by determining fault by location of damage on the vehicles involved.
Why Establishing Fault Can Be Tricky
In some accidents, liability for the accident can easily be established through video surveillance or witness statements. But these may not always be readily available. Similarly, police reports may not be of much help because they can sometimes be misleading. The police are responsible for securing the scene, ensuring everyone is okay, and clearing the area for debris. Their last priority is to describe what happened in their report.
When the stakes are high, it’s important to speak to an experienced car accident attorney. Your attorney can enlist the help of an accident reconstruction specialist, who can formulate an expert opinion as to what happened. Accident reconstruction specialists often use debris patterns and the location of damage on both cars to come up with a theory as to how the crash occurred.
What Experts Look at When Determining Fault by Location of Damage
Accident reconstruction specialists will try to find the initial point of impact on both vehicles. Cars moving at certain speeds in certain directions will often result in a specific type of damage. Damage patterns can also show if one vehicle was moving while the other was still. In those cases, it’s almost always going to be the fault of the driver whose vehicle was in motion as opposed to the driver whose vehicle was not.
We always advise our clients to take pictures of both vehicles directly after an accident has occurred. Of course, that’s not always possible, especially if your injuries were too severe for you to be able to do this. If you can, however, it does improve the quality of your claim against an at-fault party and gives the specialist more information to work with in the event that they do not have access to the other vehicle.
In certain cases, especially those involving multiple vehicles, the initial point of impact is not so easy to determine. That’s because there are almost always multiple points of impact. Without both vehicles or access to photographs showing the damage of both vehicles, the accident reconstruction specialist can only rule out certain possibilities. Another thing to keep in mind is that insurance companies will have their own accident specialists working to interpret the data in their policyholder’s favor.
Location of Damage Isn’t Always Enough to Prove Fault
In most cases, damage to the rear of one vehicle and to the front of the other indicate a rear-end collision, which is almost always the fault of the driver who did the rear-ending. However, there may be cases where the front driver acted negligently (such as stopping in the middle of traffic for no reason), therefore causing the rear driver to crash into them. When this happens, location of damage wouldn’t be enough to prove fault. The rear driver would have to prove the front driver’s negligence.
In sideswipe accidents, determining fault by location of the damage may not always be possible, since both vehicles will have damage to opposite sides.
In t-bone accidents, location of damage may be able to prove which car struck the other, but it would not enough to determine which vehicle had the right of way when the accident took place.
How Other Car Accident Evidence Comes Into Play
Location of damage is often considered in conjunction with each party’s statement (and witness statements, if there are any). If an at-fault party gives a false statement, the evidence of damage patterns can be used against them to refute that statement.
However, impact damage is only one piece of the puzzle. It alone often isn’t enough to accurately portray the whole picture. Other factors that may help in determining fault in a car accident include:
- Speed of each vehicle using skid marks on the road,
- Weather conditions, and
- Road-worthiness of each driver and their vehicle.
That’s why when possible, taking pictures of both vehicles, debris on the road, and even witnesses around the event can save you a lot of frustration in the long run. The insurance company will interpret ambiguities against you. Documenting as much evidence as you can at the scene of the accident can help strengthen your claim and prevent that from happening.
A Car Accident Attorney Can Help You Obtain Compensation for Your Losses
Establishing liability in a car accident is crucial to ensuring that you are fairly compensated for your injuries and for property damage to your vehicle. To learn more about determining fault by location of damage and how a car accident attorney can help, contact Brylak Law today.