Every person who gets behind the wheel of a car has a duty to share our highways responsibly. All drivers are required to drive in a safe manner, obey the rules of the road, and be aware of road conditions.
This, however, doesn’t always happen. In Santa Ana alone, traffic accidents injured or killed 2,881 in a recent year—232 involving alcohol. Speeding contributed to 698 accidents, and 246 took place at night.
When involved in an auto accident, motorists are required to stop and check to see if anyone has been injured, give assistance if able, notify law enforcement, and exchange ownership and insurance information. That doesn’t always happen, either. Hit and run accidents constituted almost 10 percent of Santa Ana’s accidents that caused deaths or injuries.
Unfortunately, things rarely go so smoothly in the wake of a serious accident. Proving fault is not always easy, but it is important in order to receive compensation for personal injury or property damage. Folks involved in an automobile accident often suffer tremendous emotional and financial pressure in the aftermath.
Proving another driver is at fault for an auto accident is key to collecting compensation for injuries, wage loss, and property damage
Proving that another driver was negligent can be a complicated issue, and it is unlikely to be a simple do-it-yourself project. A successful investigation will typically require collecting and evaluating evidence, as well as locating and interviewing witnesses. In order to file a valid claim with an insurance company or prove liability in a civil claim, it is usually necessary to prove:
- The other driver had a responsibility to operate his or her vehicle safely
- The other driver breached this duty
- The actions of the other driver caused the accident
- The accident directly caused injuries or monetary losses
Sometimes There Is No Doubt
In certain cases, it is relatively simple to determine who was at fault in a car accident. Common scenarios include:
Except in rare cases, it is almost always the fault of the following driver if you were hit from behind. The rules of the road require motorists to keep enough distance between vehicles that will allow for abrupt stops without causing an impact.
If a vehicle is driving straight down the road and a car making a left-hand turn hits them, the car making the turn is likely at fault. When there is obvious damage to the front-end of one vehicle and the front right-side of another, a left-turn accident is relatively easy to substantiate.
When law enforcement is called to the scene of an accident, an official report is generated. Notations about the police officer’s observations, or any mention of traffic law violations, will go a long way in determining fault. The crash report is needed to document the event and it is also helpful to have as proof that the incident occurred. This report will usually include personal and insurance information of the driver(s) involved in the accident, the driver’s description of the accident, and any witness information and their accident description. Ideally, it will note any injuries and property damage along with a drawing or diagram of the scene, and whether or not it was a hit and run.
If you came out of a store and found your car had been damaged in a parking lot, or if you were sideswiped by a hit and run driver, eyewitness statements will be important. Third party testimony is a valuable resource when the damage occurred outside your presence or the liable party is not readily identifiable.
It is also possible to provide evidence by using footage from security or video cameras. These days, many stores and business establishments have security cameras mounted on the front of their building. These cameras may have captured the actual hit and run incident. From these pictures, it may be possible to get information on the make or model of the car, the driver, and/or the vehicle’s license plate number.
Examine the Physical Evidence
Damage to the vehicle may help establish who was at fault. Information such as where the damage on the car is located, damage on the defendant’s car, and if was there an exchange of paint from one car to another, may be enough to prove liability. Following a California car accident, the at-fault driver can be held accountable for the victim’s medical bills, pain, suffering, and other related damages. This process becomes more complicated when the driver flees the scene of the crash and is not immediately identifiable.
In that perfect world, the negligent driver’s insurance would cover the victim’s medical bills and other financial, physical, and emotional losses. However, when authorities are not able to track down and apprehend the at-fault driver, there are fewer options for the victim and the victim’s family to seek compensation. Drivers that have uninsured motorist coverage may be able to receive compensation from their own insurance carrier. In other cases, it may not be possible to obtain compensation if the liable party is unable to be identified or located.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Your actions immediately following an accident are important. Once you have addressed any immediate injuries, focus on the following steps to preserve evidence and protect your rights:
- Notify law enforcement: A police report is a valuable document when defending against an accident claim. It is always beneficial to gather as much information as possible. Ask for a copy.
- Take pictures of the accident scene: Including your car and every vehicle involved. Document on film the condition of your clothing, visible injuries, and pictures of the surrounding area.
- Witness statements are impactful: To the extent that speaking to potential witnesses is feasible, get the names and contact information of persons who are willing to testify on your behalf.
- See your healthcare provider: Seek immediate treatment for obvious injuries, and be cognizant of symptoms that may surface at a later date. Of equal importance is a physician’s report, and your medical records will help directly link your injuries to the accident.
- Notify your insurance carrier and review your coverage: Following an accident, check with your agent to determine your coverage and notify your insurer.
- Document everything: Specifically, any nearby witnesses, police statements, statements made by the other driver, or any conditions relevant to appointing fault for the accident.
- Track your medical expenses: The cost of medical care, prescriptions, co-payments, mileage to and from appointments, and adaptive equipment may be reimbursable.
Need Assistance Now? Call Aitken * Aitken * Cohn
If there is question or controversy about who was at fault in your recent auto accident, or if you are the victim of a hit and run, you need a highly experienced litigator on your side. Contact Aitken * Aitken * Cohn online or call our office at (714) 434-1424 to schedule a free consultation and learn more about we can do to ensure your rights are protected at every stage of the claims process.