Determining Fault in a Car Accident

The primary issue in a car accident is determining who is at fault.   Once a  police report is generated, it will generally state who is at fault.   On occasion, an individual who wasn’t even driving the vehicle or present at the accident can be assigned blame.  These situations include when an employer is found to be liable for a wrongful act committed by an employee, or when you allow someone else to drive your vehicle.  If you let a friend drive your car and they are involved in an accident, you are responsible for their actions.
Finding help in determining who is at fault may require more than a police report.  Witnesses are used to testify as to what they saw.  They may be called upon to give a recorded statement to the insurance company or assist in reconstructing the accident.  If you choose to hire an attorney to represent you with your auto accident case, these professionals will sometimes hire “expert witnesses”.  These are people who have skills and experience in determining the cause of the accident by taking into account design and human factors, which may play a role in accident causation.  A witness may not even be a human.  Surveillance cameras can act as a witness, which doesn’t rely on human recollection.

Traffic Laws

Being knowledgeable about the local and state traffic laws will help you in determining liability.  For instance, if a witness or the other party involved in the accident saw you illegally using a mobile device, they can use this as evidence against you.

Rear End Collision

The most common type of accident is the rear-end collision.  A typical scenario is when a driver suddenly slows down or brakes to avoid hitting something in the road, the vehicle behind the first car hits them resulting in a rear-end collision.  Injuries to the occupants of the impacted vehicle are generally much worse because they didn’t have any warning.  Whereas, the person who hits the vehicle may already have time to brace for impact when they realize they haven’t been able to stop in time.  The driver of the car that rear-ends the other vehicle is almost always found to be at fault.
These accidents usually involve injuries to the back and neck.  Often, whiplash and soft tissue injuries are equally prevalent.  In more severe cases, permanent or serious injuries can be a consequence.  Make sure to always use your seat belt and ensure that all passengers are restrained as well.

State Vehicle Code

Each state has a group of laws, which are referred to as the vehicle code or traffic code.  The Department of Motor Vehicle Guide can serve as basic information.  However, there are new laws passed which may not be included in this reference material.
Another example of where the state laws differ is in the limits of blood alcohol content.  For example, in the state of California, it is now unlawful for a person who is on DUI probation to operate a motor vehicle at any time when his or her blood alcohol is .01% or greater.

Obtaining and Using a Police Report

Certain police records and reports maintained by the police department are accessible to the public.  You should contact the local police department or look on their website to see what information is required in order to obtain a report.  These typically include the names of the parties involved, the date of the incident and the location.  A fee will be charged as these fees may vary, but are usually $5.00 for an accident report.  Some agencies will require you to pick up the report in person, while others will mail a copy of the report to you at no additional charge.
Since there is a great deal of information recorded in these reports, it can be an extremely useful tool in determining fault in the case of an auto accident.  Most reports will list the name and telephone number of witnesses.  In some situations, the report may contain witness statements about what happened.  Obtaining their contact information can be a valuable asset for you and/or your attorney when proving what happened and who was at fault.

Accidents involving Cell Phones

Recent studies suggest nearly 2,600 people are killed each year in accidents involving drivers using their cell phones.  Currently, a total of six states and the District of Columbia have banned driving while talking on a hand-held cellular phone.  These states include, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah, and Washington.  Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 14 states and the District of Columbia.  In addition, 10 states currently have restrictions in place, which apply to drivers under a certain age.  You need to make sure you are following the laws governing the state in which you are operating a vehicle.
You may be liable for a car accident if you were using a cell phone illegally while driving.  In some cases, you may be found guilty for contributing to the accident due to careless driving which may include; driving with only one hand on the steering wheel, or taking your eyes off the road to reach for a cell phone or dial a number.
An employer can be held legally responsible for a car accident if an employee was on a work-related call at the time of the accident.  The injured plaintiff is more likely to sue the employer as they generally have more money.