You or someone you love has been in a car accident, and you’re confident the other party is at fault. That means the other driver’s insurance will have to cover for your losses— from the vehicle itself, to medical expenses, to lost income from time missed at work, to far-reaching issues dealing with trauma and loss of joy. But this presumes that your attorney can prove the other driver was the one at fault. Things that might seem obvious still have to be proven. Let’s take a look at how to prove fault in a car accident case.
Proving Breach of Duty
What’s at issue in any personal injury case is whether the defendant (the other driver) breached their basic duty to drive responsibly. The simple fact there was an accident will not be sufficient. There are car crashes where neither driver was at fault. When that happens, each driver’s insurance company covers their losses. To get the defendant’s insurer to be the one that pays out—and to get intangible damages, such as pain and suffering, included—means the plaintiff (the injured driver) will have to show breach of duty.
Breach of duty means the failure to exercise a reasonable standard of care. This is an arbitrary benchmark, and if a case should go to trial, the jury will be the ones that decide what is reasonable behavior from a driver and what is not. An experienced lawyer can work to sway the jury—or, more often than not, sway the insurance company that the case against them is strong enough that they are better off settling out of court.
Proving breach of duty means gathering the evidence that will paint a portrait of what took place in the accident. This evidence includes the following…
Presuming a driver can still move around and has their faculties about them, they can take photos of the accident scene with their cellphone. If the driver did have to go to the hospital, it’s possible that bystanders may have taken cellphone pics. An experienced attorney can review these photos looking for clues—an example might be how the skid marks look, as a means of assessing whether someone was speeding or braked in time.
Getting the contact information of those who witnessed the accident is a crucial part of evidence-gathering. Again, this presumes that the driver or someone else in the vehicle, is healthy enough to do this after the crash. A lawyer can follow up with each witness. If multiple people testify to more or less the same version of events, that can make a powerful impression in either negotiation or litigation.
The police will have their own written report of the accident scene and our lawyer can obtain this information. Even if the injured plaintiff was unable to take their own photos of the accident scene, the authorities will have done so. If an injured plaintiff was not able to get witness information, the police on the scene may have talked to those who saw the accident. Moreover, the information contained in a police report is likely to be seen as highly credible by the court.
Traffic Camera Footage
If the accident happened at a place where traffic cameras were rolling, then the video footage can certainly be introduced as evidence. It’s the job of an attorney to find out if this footage is available.
Perhaps the injured plaintiff is someone with a spotless driving record, while the defendant has a history of traffic violations and perhaps even reckless driving. Now, what happened in the past isn’t going to override real physical evidence of what took place in this particular incident. But what if there’s no traffic cam footage available and there’s considerable dispute over what actually happened. While past history isn’t necessarily the most compelling piece of evidence in a lawyer’s arsenal, it can certainly play a role in a closely contested legal battle.