6 Ways to Prove Auto Accident Liability (+ Partial Fault Accidents)
The moments after an accident are not only terrifying but can quickly become confusing when determining liability. In many cases, blame is likely to be tossed back and forth. Of course, liability is almost never 100% black and white in an auto accident. Who is liable depends on a lot of factors, from the location it happened to the weather conditions and other circumstances.
6 Ways to Help Prove Liability in an Accident
The best way to determine liability is to look at six key factors. We’ll take a look at each, and then highlight some scenarios involving different liable parties.
1. Accident Details
Noting every detail after an accident is as crucial as the details of a police report. By taking down just the facts, you can remember important details later on that may otherwise be overlooked in the heat of the moment. Keep a notebook in your car just in case, or just note the details in your phone. Things you’ll want to make a note of include:
- Description of the damage done to your vehicle
- Street names
- Date and time
- The weather
- The other car’s license plate number
- The contact information of anyone else involved
Describing the damage done to your vehicle will be useful in determining the price of repairs. The factors surrounding the accident are important to take note of, such as street names, the date, the time, and the weather. The license plate number of the car and the contact information of the other driver are best obtained as soon as possible; if not, you would have to obtain this information from police reports.
Read more in our blog 6 Questions to Ask After a Car Accident.
2. Photographic Evidence
Since our phones now double as cameras, taking photos is easily accomplished. Photographic evidence is the best evidence to have when determining liability in an accident. Important details to photograph include:
- The overall scene, including signs/lights
- Damage done to your vehicle (and other vehicles if possible)
- Skid marks and other tell-tale signs of an accident
Photographing the damage to your vehicle shows where your car was hit. Skid marks show where the cars were placed during the accident, and can prove who was where and when they were there. The picture of the overall scene shows details that could easily be forgotten. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and each picture can provide enough evidence to help prove liability.
3. Police Reports
A police report is perhaps the most important document presented after an accident. It provides the details of all parties involved, as well as the opinion of the police officer. The police officer’s opinion is an unbiased and informed one made by a professional outside party. This heightens the report’s credibility and is an official document presented to insurance companies.
The exact violation of a specific traffic law may be mentioned, as well as any issued citation. Police reports are the most common document proving who is at fault in the event of an accident. It’s important to note, however, that the opinion of a police officer is not definitive; if you believe the officer is wrong, you can still make a case in court to have your side of the story heard.
4. State Traffic Laws
Knowing the Florida traffic laws now can help you win your case against a driver who is liable. Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides driver’s handbooks and manuals that are free to download that you can use to search for specific laws.
When proving yourself to your insurance company or that of the other driver, backing up your argument with cited sources can help. Of course, there’s no substitute for a qualified Florida auto accident attorney who can help you navigate these often confusing laws.
Read our blog Top Questions to Ask Your Insurance Company After an Auto Accident.
5. Definite Liability
While every car accident is different, the type of car accident may immediately tell officials and those involved who may be at fault. Certain kinds of car accidents are caused by common factors, which means that the other driver could be at fault 99% of the time. In these cases, insurance companies very rarely argue over them. The two most common types of “No Doubt Liability” are rear-end collisions and accidents occurring during a left turn.
When your car is hit from behind, it is almost always the other driver’s fault, regardless of your reason for stopping. It is a common rule of the road to be prepared to stop for any reason and to give both cars enough space to safely stop. If the rear car cannot stop safely, then it is safe to assume that they were not driving as safely as the car in front of them. The damage proves how it happened, making insurance companies aware of the situation.
Accidents resulting from a left turn are almost always caused by the car making the left turn. The cars driving on the straighter road have the right of way, meaning that even when the general light is green, the car making the left turn must yield. Failure to yield can result in an accident and thus said car is liable. While there are certain exceptions, the result is almost always the same.
6. Video Evidence
While cameras are not installed at every red light or at every intersection, they can be very helpful if they are in fact available. A red light camera can determine the speed of the parties involved and show exactly what happened when played back.
These cameras are time-stamped as well, so they can pinpoint the exact details surrounding the event. This provides great evidence against insurance providers who claim otherwise. Obtaining the footage from the cameras can be difficult, but you can start with a phone call to city officials or the municipality. Of course, an experienced Florida accident attorney will have better luck obtaining this evidence than any individual person.
Accident Liability Scenarios: Fault Isn’t Always on Just One Person
In some situations, fault can be divvied up between both parties involved in the accident. fault can be divided by 70/30, 90/10, or however the attorneys and insurance agents see fit for the circumstance. Let’s take a look at a few liability scenarios.
The Illegal Turn
Let’s say a motorist was making an illegal U-turn and an oncoming driver T-boned them. Of course, the person making the illegal turn is at fault. But what if the oncoming driver was going 30mph over the speed limit? Shouldn’t they also be liable for breaking the law? In this case, both drivers likely share some of the blame.
The Drunk Driver
If someone is driving drunk and hits another driver, there is little to no question of fault (although some of the earlier points discussed could factor into a 90/10 liability split, etc.). Driving drunk is considered intentional or reckless misconduct, and can mean serious charges and felonies depending on the state. Texting while driving (or distracted driving) is sometimes looked at in a similar manner. Victim of a DUI accident? We can help.
The Multi-Car Pileup
We have all seen those crashes where three, four, five, or more cars all hit each other in a pileup. It’s a very unfortunate circumstance and can get very sticky with insurance companies. In a typical circumstance, the front driver wouldn’t be liable, since they did not hit anyone. However, everyone after that would have some percentage of liability distributed between the drivers.
The Rear-End Accident
As mentioned, a rear-end collision is almost always the fault of the driver in the front. However, there can be extenuating circumstances. If the driver in front can prove that another car pulled in front of them before they could reestablish a safe stopping distance, they may be able to avoid accepting all of the blame.
As you can see, there are grey areas when it comes to liability! This is why fault can be divided between parties in some circumstances. Keep in mind these are all hypothetical scenarios and aren’t tied to any real stories or people. The point of providing examples is to offer differing perspectives on how liability can be affected in various accidents.
Florida Auto Accident? Contact Lowman Law Firm for Help!
After an auto accident – and after everyone is safely out of harm’s way – determining liability comes next. Blame might be thrown around, but the facts will be able to pinpoint the truth behind the liability (or they could determine that both parties share some of the blame). Either way, it’s easier to get to the bottom of things with an experienced lawyer at your side.
The personal injury attorneys at Lowman Law Firm can help you navigate the complex challenges of the legal system to ensure your rights are protected. We serve all of Florida, with offices in Citrus County, Hernando County, Hillsborough County, and Pasco County. Not able to come to us? We’ll come to you! We offer free home and hospital consultations. And, there’s never a fee until you win your case.