One of the very first questions that should enter your mind after a car accident is, “Who is at fault?” Determining fault in a car accident case is necessary to decide whose insurance company will cover damages, whose premium might increase, and who may be a defendant in a personal injury claim. Proving fault comes down to negligence, or the failure of a person to act in a way a reasonably careful individual would in the same circumstances. Here are six tips for proving fault in a car accident case, straight from our Charleston, WV car accident lawyers:
Obtain Police Reports
Request a copy of the official police report from the scene of your accident. This report will have vital information about the crash, such as what direction both vehicles were traveling, who the accident involved, eyewitness statements, and other facts about the crash, such as any debris or skid marks present in the road. The written police report can also state the officer’s opinion that one or both parties violated traffic laws in connection with the accident, or show evidence of a written citation. Any mention of the other driver’s negligence in an official police report can go a long way toward proving fault.
After an accident, take photographs of the scene. Include pictures of all vehicles involved, any property damage, personal injuries, the roadway, street signs, and any other important details. If you had to leave the scene of the accident in an ambulance, ask a friend or relative to take photos on your behalf, if possible. Photographic evidence of something such as equipment left in the road from a construction site or a malfunctioning traffic light can serve as hard proof of someone else’s negligence contributing to your crash.
Gather Eyewitness Statements
Remain on the scene of the accident and record eyewitness statements, if possible. You can gather these in writing (with signatures) or via a voice recording/video on your mobile or other device. Police officers will gather these statements on your behalf, especially if you ask them to do so. However, gathering your own statements can ensure you have this important type of evidence available. Eyewitness statements can help clear up any disputes between the drivers about the details of the accident, such as how fast the vehicles were driving or which vehicle pulled out first at an intersection.
Hire an Expert for Testimony
In West Virginia, a car accident personal injury case does not require professional testimony as a medical malpractice case does. However, hiring a professional may be appropriate in certain situations to help prove fault. For example, in an effort to prove that a roadway maintenance crew should have trimmed a tree that was blocking a stop sign, the plaintiff may hire an arborist to testify that a reasonably competent tree trimmer would have known to trim the tree before allowing it to get so large as to block the street sign.
Read up on the State’s Car Accident Laws
Traffic laws in the state of West Virginia and in your municipality can help you prove that another party broke a law, resulting in your accident. Do research on your own, starting with the West Virginia Traffic Regulations and Laws of the Road. There may be certain rules your case involves, such as those relating to cell phone use behind the wheel. Information on contributory negligence may come in handy if you were partially at fault for the accident.
Retain an Attorney
Depending on how complex your car accident case is, you may need help from an attorney to prove your case. Find a West Virginia personal injury attorney with experience handling car accident claims in West Virginia. A lawyer can investigate your case and help you come up with evidence against an at-fault party. An attorney can also protect important evidence from being destroyed.