In a car accident, things move quickly. One minute you are cruising down the road, and the next, you are dealing with serious injuries from a car accident in Atlanta. You might not know what happened right away, so you need a thorough investigation to tell who is at fault in a car accident to protect your rights, health, and finances.
A car accident can leave you out of work and with a damaged car and medical bills that continue to pile up. If another driver caused your accident, you could recover financial compensation called damages. However, to recover those damages, you need to know who is at fault for the collision.
Knowing Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident Matters
Knowing who is at fault in a car accident matters; the driver who caused the accident usually bears liability. Few people cause car accidents on purpose, but intentionality means nothing. Many accidents result from negligence, carelessness, or recklessness behind the wheel.
A negligent driver is legally liable for the accident and its resulting expenses. You must show that the other driver's negligence caused your accident and injuries to recover damages.
Your case must contain these four elements of negligence:
- Duty of care: On the road, every driver must avoid placing other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians at risk. This obligation is legally known as a duty of care. When you are driving, you owe a duty of care to other drivers, and they owe a duty of care to you.
- Breach of duty: The other driver breached his duty of care to you with their irresponsible driving behavior.
- Causation: When the other driver breached their duty of care, they directly caused the accident.
- Damages: The accident must have caused you measurable losses, such as medical expenses, loss of income, and damage to your vehicle.
You don’t have to attend law school to prove negligence in a car accident case. An injury lawyer can use evidence to show each of these factors.
Common Examples of Negligent Driving
Any driving behavior that disregards the safety of others and puts them at risk of harm constitutes negligent driving.
Here are some of the most common examples of negligence:
- Driving too fast for current weather conditions
- Failing to yield
- Ignoring traffic signs and signals
- Texting while driving
- Falling asleep at the wheel
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving the wrong way on a highway or one-way street
- Making an illegal turn
- Improper lane changes or merging
- Cutting off another driver
Determining Fault in a Car Crash
Even if you know the other driver caused your accident, you cannot count on them to tell the truth. If they admit fault, they may become responsible for your medical bills, vehicle repairs, lost income, and more. Still, many people will not take the blame for an accident, even if they know they were at fault.
On the other hand, even an at-fault driver may not know what happened. Car accidents start and end in an instant and are often traumatic. The heightened stress and pain of injuries coupled with the short time frame may mean that the people involved genuinely do not know who caused the accident. That is why a thorough investigation is critical to determine fault.
A good investigation will look for evidence of who caused the accident. The police will investigate an accident, and so will the insurance companies for each driver involved. Car accident lawyers can also launch their own investigation, so you may want to consider retaining their services.
An Investigation Looks for Evidence of Who Is at Fault in an Accident
If you decide to hire a lawyer, they will investigate the accident from your perspective and look for evidence that proves negligence. Supporting evidence can include:
Evidence From Photographs
Pictures of the accident scene can capture valuable information about the accident. Memories fade with time. So, a photo that immediately documents the accident provides a more reliable picture when compared to speculation.
Pictures can show:
- The precise location of the cars after the accident, which can help with accident reconstruction
- Skid marks on the road, which can also assist with accident reconstruction.
- Obstacles on the road, such as downed trees or branches, traffic cones, or animals that may cause one driver to swerve or stop short
- Defects in the road, such as potholes, sudden drop-offs, or missing or obscured traffic signs
- Weather conditions, such as fog or rain
When the police arrive, they will most likely take pictures of the scene. Once you have assured everyone's health and safety, take pictures before anyone changes the scene. Your photographs will prevent the loss of essential details.
Evidence From Video Cameras
Like photographic evidence, video camera evidence can prove valuable in telling who is at fault in an accident. While you may not have a dashboard camera in your car, you may still have access to other types of video footage. Other drivers may have a dashboard camera, or a bystander may have filmed your accident inadvertently. Traffic and surveillance cameras from nearby businesses can often provide video camera evidence.
When the police investigate your accident, they should check nearby traffic cameras and businesses for helpful footage and collect the data for the car accident report. However, your case is not the only one they have to handle. So, they may not devote the necessary time to track down all available footage.
The injury lawyer working on your case will take the time to track down any footage that may show who caused the accident.
Evidence From the Vehicles
Damage to your car and the other car can help investigators determine which driver was at fault. For example, the presence and location of dents, paint transfer, and changes to rust patterns can assist investigators. The damage on a car may reveal the direction and speed of each vehicle before the accident.
In some cases, the damage indicates fault.
- Damage to the rear of one car and the front of the other indicates that a rear-end accident occurred, and rear-end accidents are almost always the fault of the rear driver.
- Damage to the side of one car and the front of the other indicates that a T-bone accident occurred.
- More severe damage usually indicates a high-speed accident.
- Paint transfers or parts left on the road can identify the car that fled in a hit-and-run accident.
In many cases, damage to each car used with other evidence can determine fault. For example, proof of a T-bone accident does not necessarily show which driver caused the accident. Further details, such as information about traffic patterns or signs, can help establish who had the right of way.
Testimony From Eyewitnesses
No one has a perfect memory, but eyewitness accounts can provide valuable details about what happened in your accident. You can give a statement, as can the other driver and passengers from either vehicle.
Eyewitness testimony from others, such as people in nearby cars or bystanders on the sidewalk, can provide additional perspective on who was at fault. If possible, get the names and phone numbers of any bystanders who witnessed it. If necessary, a car accident lawyer can track them down to secure their testimony.
Cell Phone Records
Under Georgia law, drivers cannot write, send, or read text-based communications on a wireless device. Even with these strict laws, distracted driving injures thousands of people annually.
A lawyer can obtain the cell phone records of the other driver to determine if they were using a cell phone at the time of the accident. This evidence can be critical in building a case against the other driver.
According to Georgia law, the state prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances.
A personal injury lawyer can obtain the other driver's toxicology report to see if alcohol was a factor in your accident. Evidence of their drug or alcohol use can indicate fault. If the other driver faces criminal charges for intoxicated driving, this could support your case.
Evidence From an Electronic Data Recorder
Not all cars have them, but more vehicles come equipped with Electronic Data Recorders (EDRs). According to the Automotive Safety Council, EDRs are much like the black boxes on airplanes that record details before and after collisions.
This data includes:
- Vehicle speed
- Engine parameters
- Brake parameters
- Accelerator pedal information
- Seat belt usage
- Airbag deployment
- Occupant weight
- Seating positions
A lawyer can use the data to determine fault. They may consult with mechanics or automotive experts to interpret this data.
Evidence from Airbag Deployment
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that airbags deploy in moderate to severe crashes, the equivalent of striking a parked car at 16 to 28 miles per hour or higher. If your airbag deployed, that is evidence of your collision’s severity. Along with other evidence, airbag deployment can help piece together what happened.
Accident Reconstruction Specialist Analysis
Accident reconstruction specialists are trained professionals who can use multiple types of evidence to determine why and how an accident occurred. They may rely upon evidence, such as vehicle damage, videos and photographs, cell phone records, toxicology reports, weather information, and more, to reconstruct the accident and determine which driver caused it.
Personal injury lawyers may hire accident reconstruction specialists to analyze accidents for their clients and determine fault.
The Injuries You Suffered
The injuries you suffered can answer important questions about your car accident. For example, if you suffered whiplash or spinal cord trauma, this could point to a rear-end collision. Broken ribs could indicate a frontal or side-impact collision, according to Motor Vehicle Collisions.
Knowing the type of accident you suffered (as well as your injuries) can answer important case-related questions.
Promptly Consider Your Legal Options
Determining fault takes time. Even if it takes months to determine who caused your collision, this will not extend the statute of limitations. Georgia law notes that you generally have two years to file your injury lawsuit.
The state rarely allows exceptions for cases filed outside that period. For instance, it will not grant you an extension while an investigation unfolds. The more time between now and your accident, the harder proving fault is.
Partnering with an injury lawyer can protect your right to damages via litigation. They can do more than manage your case’s filing deadline; they can also prove fault, calculate your losses, and pursue what you need.
At-Fault Drivers May Bear Responsibility for Your Damages in a Car Accident
The driver who caused an accident bears the financial responsibility for the expenses related to the accident. If you suffered harm in an accident that was not your fault, you might recover damages from the at-fault driver.
These damages may include:
- Medical expenses for past and future treatment
- Vehicle repair or replacement bills
- Loss of income, including loss of salary, wages, tips, and more
- Reduced earning power to make up the difference in pay if you cannot return to your previous job or work altogether
- Out-of-pocket expenses, such as temporary transportation arrangements and childcare costs
- Pain and suffering for emotional trauma, physical pain, reduced quality of life, and more
- Wrongful death-related losses, such as funeral, burial, and memorial costs
- Scarring and disfigurement
You can seek damages from the at-fault driver on your own, but you may wish to consult a personal injury lawyer who has experience handling similar cases. They can collect evidence to tell who was at fault in the accident and pursue damages from that driver and his insurance company.
Working with a lawyer may give you the time and space to focus on recovery, so call a car accident lawyer near you today.