It’s never a pleasant experience for either party when you’re involved in a car accident. Even though emotions and stress levels may be running high, it’s important to take certain steps right after the accident to prove you are not at fault, if that is the case.
Determining who’s at fault is the most critical factor if you’re going to seek financial compensation for damage to your vehicle, since the negligent party is liable for the costs of the accident. However, sometimes it’s not completely clear who’s at fault by just observing the evidence at the scene of the accident.
So you need to understand that certain steps are necessary to prove you are not at fault when you find yourself in a car accident. Follow these 5 steps when you are at the scene of the accident.
How to Prove You Are Not At Fault in a Car Accident: 5 Tips
- Look for Traffic Violations
Was the other driver speeding or clearly break other traffic laws? If so, it will be much easier to prove they were at fault for the accident. If you can prove they were driving above the speed limit, that they ran a red light or stop sign, or that they failed to yield the right of way, you have a strong case to prove you were not at fault. Note that laws vary from state to state, so it might be wise to work with a car accident attorney who knows the law. You can also look up the Vehicle Code for your state to see the specific rules of the road.
- Take Lots of Photos
angles, wide shots and close-ups. Take photos of the debris on the road and the weather conditions as well. Be sure to photograph the license plate of the other driver or drivers and all damage to all vehicles.
- Never Admit Fault or Say “I’m Sorry”
It’s best to say as little as possible to the other party when you’re in an accident. Be sure to exchange information and ask if they’re okay, but don’t apologize in any way. If you do, it could be construed as an admission of guilt.
- Get a Police Report
A police officer or someone else from local law enforcement may show up at the scene, especially if there are injuries. It’s always a good idea to call police so that a report can be filed. If a police officer does show up at the scene and takes a report, be sure to get a copy of the accident report later. Ask the officer how to get a copy of the report or call the traffic division of your local law enforcement agency to get a copy.
- Find a Witness.
Notice if someone else has stopped at the scene who might be a witness and ask them if they saw what happened. Then record their answer. This could help you tremendously in establishing that you were not at fault in the accident. Be sure to get their contact information, too.
Determining Liability After an Accident
Most accidents happen because a driver was careless or negligent in some way. The basic rule is that whoever was the most careless is deemed to be the driver at fault, and that person must pay for at least a portion of the damages suffered by the more careful one. If the injured person (who was presumably not at fault) was also careless in some way, his or her compensation may be reduced relative to their actions of carelessness.
If the accident was caused by a person while he or she was working for an employer in the act of their job, the employer may also be legally liable for the accident. Also, if an accident happened because the property it occurred on is somehow faulty or poorly maintained, the property owner may also be held responsible. If the accident was caused by a defective product, the manufacturer and the seller of that product would both be considered liable for damages.
“Damages” is an umbrella term that includes many costs associated with the accident – not only repairs to your vehicle. It also includes medical expenses and maybe even cost of a rental car while your car is being repaired.
If both drivers appear to be at fault to varying degrees, it’s up to your insurance adjuster to look at all the factors that resulted in the accident and make a determination of percentage of carelessness for both parties. Consulting a personal injury attorney may also help you to accurately specify how much your claim is worth, taking into consideration the seriousness of your injuries and any medical costs you may have incurred.
No-doubt liability means that there are certain types of accidents where it’s almost never your fault. For example, if you were rear-ended by another driver, it’s almost never your fault regardless of why you stopped. A basic driving rule is that a driver has to be able to stop his or her vehicle safely if traffic is stopped ahead. If the driver cannot stop safely, chances are that he or she is following too close to the car in front or going too fast.
The evidence in a rear-end collision is pretty clear – the “at fault” driver’s car is smashed in the front and the “not at fault” driver’s car is smashed in the rear. An extenuating circumstance may be that the driver who hit you was pushed by a car behind it, but it doesn’t change his or her responsibility for the damage to your car and any possible injuries that may have occurred.
Another example of no-doubt liability is when a car makes a left turn and it collides with a car coming straight in the other direction. In this case, the car turning is almost always at fault. There are exceptions to this, however – if the car going straight was speeding or went through a red light. However, the location of the damage to the vehicle usually makes it pretty believable that the driver turning left was at fault. It’s always wise to consult a car accident lawyer if you have questions about how to prove you’re not at fault.