Getting into a car accident can be a stressful and potentially even life-changing situation, and things can go from bad to worse when the driver at fault refuses to own up to their actions and take responsibility. Luckily, the law tends to be on your side and there are a number of ways to prove who was at fault for an accident no matter what the drivers may say.
Determining the cause of a car accident comes down to proving negligence, which means showing whose mistake or failure to take action led to the accident. In car accidents, negligence can be taken to mean failing to drive in a safe, responsible manner as dictated by law. While negligence is fairly easy to prove in cases where one driver committed a traffic violation that caused the accident, such as running a red light, a person can also be considered negligent even if they didn’t technically do anything illegal.
This is often the case when a person causes an accident while making a legal left turn or runs into the rear of the vehicle in front of them. Even if the other driver stops suddenly, it can reasonably be assumed that you could have avoided rear-ending them if you were fully paying attention and following all driving laws. This is just one of the many situations where another driver can be found legally negligent even when they firmly believe that the accident was your fault.
How Fault is Determined Following an Accident
Luckily, it is not up to drivers themselves to determine who was at fault for an accident. Instead it is up to the police, insurance companies and sometimes the courts to decide. The police officer that responds to the accident is the first step of the process. This responding officer will survey the scene of the crash and the extent of the damage, speak with the drivers and passengers and interview any witnesses in order to gain a full overview of the crash.
The responding officer will generally issue tickets to one or potentially multiple drivers should they determine that the motorists committed any traffic violation that contributed to the accident, such as speeding, following too closely, driving too fast for conditions, etc. Getting ticketed for an accident technically shows that a driver was at least partially at fault.
However, insurance companies don’t always agree with the police, which means that the other driver’s insurance could potentially refuse to pay for all of the damages by claiming you were also at fault. This is true even in cases where you weren’t ticketed and the other driver was. Each insurance company will send an adjustor to examine the damaged vehicles and potentially even the scene of the accident in order to arrive at their own decision on who was at fault. While the police report will obviously be a huge help in proving your case, there is still no guarantee that the other driver won’t try to pin part of the blame on you.
Proving Fault through the Courts
Should you suffer serious injuries in the accident, a personal injury attorney can still help you file a bodily injury claim against the other driver despite the state’s no-fault auto accident laws. In this case, it will be necessary to prove your case to a judge or jury. Again, the police report can be a huge benefit in this situation as can any witness reports that help to back up your statement. Should the court agree with your case and decide that the other driver was at fault, you may be entitled to compensation to cover your medical bills and possibly even awarded damages for pain and suffering, loss of income, etc.
However, New York operates under the principle of comparative fault, which means that you can only receive full compensation for your injuries if you can prove that the accident was 100 percent the other driver’s fault. Under comparative fault, the total damage award is based on the percentage of fault. For instance, if the court determines that you were 10 percent at fault for an accident, you are only entitled to receive 90 percent of the total compensation settlement.
Proving fault can be incredibly tricky. Even if the police report states that the accident was caused by the other driver, there is no guarantee that their insurance company or lawyer won’t try to claim your actions contributed to the accident or the severity of your injuries. Luckily, having an experienced personal injury law firm on your side should give you a far better chance of successfully proving your case and showing that the other driver was at fault no matter what they may try to claim otherwise.
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