Following a car accident, especially a car accident that results in serious injuries, you may feel rattled and worried. What recovery timeline will you face? How will you handle your finances after the accident? And how can you tell who hit whom in the car accident?
Determining who caused a car accident begins at the scene of the accident. Never leave the scene of an accident unless you must seek medical attention or your safety is at risk at the scene of the accident, since this could get you in trouble with the responding officers and you could be charged with a hit and run. Then, consider the following important steps with the help of an experienced car accident lawyer.
Check the Police Report
When the police arrive at the scene of the accident, the officers investigate the circumstances that contributed to the accident. Generally, the police will:
- Ask for your version of events as well as the other driver’s. The police officer will ask several questions about what led to the accident, which can help the officer develop a picture of who bears primary legal liability for the accident. Answer these questions honestly, but without incriminating yourself. The police officer can often piece together the circumstances that led to the accident based on both drivers’ statements about the accident.
- Consult with witnesses. If any witnesses remained at the scene of the accident, police will often consult with them to get their version of events. In some cases, witness statements may provide a higher degree of accuracy than the statements issued by the two drivers involved in the accident. If the police officer does not consult with witnesses at the scene of the accident, consider gathering witness contact information yourself, if you can collect that information without placing yourself in physical danger or worsening your injuries. If the other driver debates the cause of the accident later, you can turn to those witnesses for their testimony. Encourage them to write down their version of events as soon as possible, since memory often fades quickly—especially memory of a traumatic event like an auto accident.
- Examine the damage to the vehicles. On some busy roadways, you may need to move your vehicle off of the road so that traffic can continue to flow safely. If you do not have to move your vehicle, the police will check the position of the vehicles. If not, the officer may check the damage to the vehicles to help determine fault in the accident. The damage to the two vehicles may clearly tell the story: For example, in a sideswipe collision, the driver responsible for the collision may have clear damage to the front of the vehicle, as the front corner clipped the other vehicle, while the other vehicle may have damage further back. In a rear-end collision, the rear vehicle may show damage to the front end, while the front vehicle displays damage to the rear. Don’t repair the vehicle until you photograph it extensively. Even then, your car accident lawyer may wish you to leave it unrepaired until he or she can document or preserve all of the evidence from it.
After some accidents, the police report provides a clear explanation of who caused the accident. In other cases, however, you might not agree with the police report. In that case, you may need to bring in an attorney to help fully determine fault in the accident and seek the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Work With a Car Accident Attorney
In many cases, an attorney can help identify who hit whom in a car accident. Attorneys can often access information or expert witnesses that you might not have the ability to contact on your own. An attorney may:
- Locate footage of the scene of the accident. Traffic cameras may catch the accident, allowing you to easily play back the accident itself. Watching that footage, you may easily note that one driver pulled out in front of the other, ignored right of way, or chose to sail through a red light. Traffic camera footage may also show signs that a driver drove while distracted or inebriated. In the absence of traffic camera footage, lawyers may also access footage from nearby security cameras. Contacting an attorney early in the investigation process can make it easier to access security footage, since some facilities regularly clear that footage within a short period of time if they do not need it for their own liability reasons.
- Consult expert witnesses. Expert witnesses can help shed light on who caused an accident in complex accident scenarios, especially if the other driver wants to debate the cause of the accident or tries to implicate you instead of accepting liability. An expert witness can help recreate the scene of the accident. In many cases, expert witnesses can also identify other factors that might have contributed to the accident, including mechanical failures.
- Work with an investigative team to examine the vehicle. Some accidents, including those caused by mechanical failure, may involve more than one legally liable party. Once you know who hit whom, you may also need to know if other factors contributed to the accident. An attorney can work with an investigative team to identify those factors: going over the vehicle to determine what mechanical faults might have contributed to the accident, considering whether the vehicle recently received service from a mechanic, and even evaluating whether the fault occurred due to faulty manufacturing or due to user error. During a tire blowout investigation, for example, a mechanic might examine the vehicle to determine if the tire gave way prematurely, or if the driver waited too long to replace worn out tires or overloaded the vehicle, causing the failure that led to the accident.
Determining legal liability for an auto accident can make a big difference when you need to seek compensation. After many auto accidents, an attorney can offer substantial assistance in the investigation, making it easier to determine exactly who caused your accident and seek the compensation you deserve. Contact a car accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to make the investigation easier and get the compensation you deserve in your hands as soon as possible.