Jill Kolodner | September 30, 2020 | Car Accidents
Most states, including Maryland, are at fault states, meaning that you can recover compensation for damages if someone else’s negligence caused the accident. Unfortunately, it is often not easy to determine which driver is responsible for a car accident.
The cause of an accident can sometimes be fiercely disputed because each side knows they can only obtain compensation if the other party is at fault. For most accidents, the police will be called and come to the scene to complete an accident report.
An officer will evaluate the damage to the vehicles and take statements from the drivers and any witnesses who saw the accident. Many cars now have dash-cams, and surveillance videos from nearby businesses may have caught the accident. If the immediate evidence does not make it clear who caused the accident, then it can become a contested issue between the two parties.
Damage to the Vehicles as Evidence
Different types of accidents will leave damage on different locations of the vehicle. For instance, a head-on collision will leave damage on the front of your car. If you are struck from the left side, the left-hand side of your car will be damaged. If you were struck from behind, there would be damage to the back bumper of your car and the front of the car that hit you.
In rollover accidents, it can be harder to determine what caused the vehicle to roll. Vehicles, depending on their size and model, can roll onto their sides after being struck from the side, the rear, or even the front end. Likewise, the vehicle that hit you could have damage in different locations.
In some instances, you can tell a lot about how the accident happened by looking at the vehicle damage. Analyzing damage to the vehicles is a good starting place for recreating the accident and determining fault. Experts in accident recreation can say that vehicle A traveling in one direction at a specific speed should sustain X amount of damage when it crashes into another vehicle.
Two vehicle accidents, with obvious damage in specific spots, make it easier to determine what factors contributed to the accident. However, any accident scene expert will tell you that things are not always so clear. The rollover is an excellent example. The damage may be so extensive that it is had to tell what caused the rollover.
To further add to the confusion, even if you can tell exactly how the vehicles collided, that is not always enough to establish fault. Take a sideswipe accident, for instance. The damage may make it clear that the two vehicles swiped each other, but which driver drifted from their lane? A head-on collision where the two vehicles end up several yards from where they collided can be similarly difficult to tell which driver veered into the oncoming vehicle.
Damage Alone is not Enough to Prove Fault in an Accident
Many people assume that when a vehicle was struck from behind, it is always the driver with a damaged front bumper on their car, who is at fault. It is possible that the vehicle in the rear was traveling a safe distance behind when the driver of the front vehicle slams on their brakes for no apparent cause. With little time to react, the vehicle in the back slams into the car in front. If the excessive breaking was unnecessary, then it is unlikely the person in the rear is at fault for the accident.
In a T-bone accident, there may be little argument over which vehicle struck the other, but who had the right-of-way? The damage to a vehicle cannot answer questions like that. The damage to the vehicles in an accident is a good starting point in an investigation, but they cannot tell, for certain, who is at fault for the crash.
Other Information Needed to Determine Fault
We have already established that the damage to the vehicles is only part of the puzzle. A skilled car accident attorney will carefully assess all information to determine which driver’s negligence caused the accident. Other valuable information needed to paint a complete picture, includes:
- Debris left on the road. The way that debris is scattered across the road can help make sense of how an accident unfolded.
- Witness testimony. Other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who saw the accident can provide crucial testimony about what happened in the moments before and during the accident.
- Surveillance video that captures the accident is one of the most dependable and reliable ways to determine the cause of an accident.
- Cell phone records are now routinely subpoenaed to establish if one, or both, the drivers was distracted at the time of the accident. If a driver was sending a text message, or posting a video, when the accident happened, then it makes a good case for distracted driving.
Every accident has a unique profile, depending on the speeds, types of vehicles, and what happened as the crash unfolded. A seasoned Baltimore accident attorney can review your case and even hire an accident reconstructionist if necessary to determine who was at fault. If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident and not at fault, you may be entitled to recover compensation.