Proving Fault in an Automobile Accident
In the majority of motor vehicle crashes, it is easy to assign blame. In fact, this is why (unlike with slip and fall cases), attorneys are so willing and eager to take on these cases.
Under Virginia law, Title 46.2 and many local ordinances establish what are essentially the black and white rules of the road. If a driver causes a rear-end collision, they are almost certainly guilty of following too close. If they run a stop sign or red light, they are guilty of failing to yield the right-of-way. These rules feed directly into personal injury law where what is “negligent” typically comes from.
But things are not always so simple. Frequently, different eyewitnesses will have different views of the collision. Even rear-end collisions can be complicated by weather and other conditions which might give rise to a “unavoidable accident” defense. Under those and other circumstances, it is the challenging job of the personal injury attorney to secure appropriate evidence in an effort to prove fault.
This evidence can come from a number of sources. Of course, the best source of information about any accident is frequently the police department. Most of our local policing agencies are quite skilled in the collection of evidence. In a recent case involving the Chesapeake Police Department, fault was established through a new “Total Station” system which employs computers, surveying techniques, GPS, and sophisticated measurements. In certain other cases, our office will retain trained, independent accident investigators to secure evidence. Another new technique involves the recovery of crash data from on-board computers which have been installed in newer model cars and trucks. Recent implementing legislation from the Virginia General Assembly will allow greater access to this information both for injury victims and insurance companies.
In the end, proving fault actually comes down to good, old-fashioned investigative work. In our office, this means lawyers and paralegals “hitting the pavement” to take photographs, interview witnesses and view the scene. Together with sophisticated new investigative techniques, accidents which at one time could not be ascribed to the fault of one party may now result in true justice being done. As with so many of the topics covered by this blog, the main point is that injury victims have rights, need to protect their evidence and consult with counsel as soon as possible to preserve their interests.