How to Gather Proof of Fault in Vehicle Accidents
Determining fault in an accident can become a fundamental factor in cases involving liability or personal injury. It impacts insurance coverage and may be the deciding factor in identifying who is responsible for damages and expenses related to the collision. If you were involved in an accident, it’s important to know what steps you can take to protect yourself – whether you think you were at fault or not.
Your best defense in a legal suit resulting from a crash is an experienced lawyer and strong evidence. Many measures need to be taken before you even call or consult with a personal injury attorney. So, in many ways, you can help your legal team build a strong case from the beginning. Here are five ways to gather evidence of fault in a vehicle accident.
- Review the State Traffic Laws
- Take Pictures at the Scene
- Collect Witness Testimony
- Look for Video Evidence
- Request a Police Report
Review the State Traffic Laws
Check the traffic codes in Ohio, or in your state. There may already be a law on the books that clearly defines who is at fault in certain situations on the road. Two easy examples are rear-end and left turn collisions. If there is a law that applies to the crash, you will have stronger proof when negotiating with an insurance company.
Take Pictures at the Scene
They say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This is especially true in a serious car accident where there is a question of fault. You can build credibility for your case by taking some key pictures. They can be used as evidence of damages and injury or as support for witness statements and your claim about the sequence of events. Be sure to capture:
- All sides of each vehicle involved,
- Close-ups of any damage,
- Car parts or glass that has broken off the vehicle,
- The location, orientation and proximity of the vehicles,
- Location of street indications, traffic lights, stops signs, etc.,
- Skid marks left by your car or another involved,
- Weather and visibility conditions at the time of the accident,
- Damaged property,
- The time and date of the crash.
Collect Witness Testimony
When you’ve been involved in a serious traffic accident, you need to get the contact information of any witnesses that you find. Witnesses include other drivers, passengers, pedestrians and those inside nearby stores and offices who saw what happened. Testimony from witnesses can be one of the most valuable pieces of evidence in an accident claim or lawsuit.
- Ask witnesses directly for their contact information.
- Ask them what they saw and write it down or record it. If it’s not possible to do at the scene, take down their story as soon as possible to ensure accuracy.
- Send this evidence to your lawyer.
When determining fault, it’s best to get credible, unbiased witness accounts. The court will favor testimony from witnesses who don’t personally know those involved, who saw everything that happened and weren’t distracted at the time. It will also take into account the witness’ ability to accurately see, hear and remember the events of that day.
If you were unable to gather someone’s contact information yourself at the scene, you may be able to find it in the police report.
Look for Video Evidence
Because so many roadways, businesses and homes have security and surveillance cameras in Ohio these days, there’s a good chance that your accident was caught on video. In fact, recently, the courts in Ohio have ruled that dash-cam video is public record. Cameras installed on storefronts, gas stations, entryways, private business or properties, at stop lights, parking lots and in other cars could have recorded the entire crash.
It’s important to request video footage soon after the incident as many entities regularly destroy or record over older tape. Talk to the police officer, witnesses, and nearby business owners to inquire about dashboard or surveillance video. Your attorney can assist you in obtaining a copy of footage from various sources.
Request a Police Report
It’s crucial that you call the police to the scene of a serious car accident, even if you don’t think anyone was injured. The official record of the crash and who was involved is a fundamental factor in determining fault. Ask the traffic division of the police department present at the collision scene to send you a copy of the report.
The officer will likely include details about the scene, damage and relevant evidence. The report should make note if a driver was going faster than the marked speed limit, was under the influence, or had broken any other laws. In these cases, the report will be solid proof of who is at fault, liable or negligent in the accident.
When you receive the report, or while it’s being written (if possible) at the scene, check to make sure it’s correct. If you disagree with the accuracy of the accident report, you and your lawyer should try to have it amended. You can offer to submit a written statement of your detailed version of the collision.
Remember, the before gathering evidence for your case, follow the proper steps for handling things at the scene of the accident. See What to Do When You’re in a Car Accident.
You Need Strong Representation for Your Case
If you have been involved in a serious accident, you don’t have time to waste. As the days pass, details become less clear and your memory may falter. Ohio’s two – year statute of limitations may also hinder your lawsuit case.