What evidence might help my car accident case?

May 6, 2024 | By Francis Firm Injury Attorneys
What evidence might help my car accident case?

You might know that another driver caused your car accident. You might also know how serious and costly your injuries are. However, your personal knowledge is not enough to convince auto insurance companies to pay a claim. Instead, you need to hire a car accident attorney who can gather evidence to prove liability and damages in your case.

In a car accident case, it is not so much about your side of the story as it is about what you can prove happened in the crash. No matter what you say, the insurance company or a jury will want to see proof before they either write a check or order compensation for you. In other words, you will need evidence that backs up what you are saying and proves that the other driver was at fault for what happened. Substantial evidence can make all the difference in proving fault, establishing damages, and ultimately winning your case. Without this evidence, you will not receive financial compensation.

There are practical difficulties in gathering car accident evidence. First, you are dealing with physical injuries, and you may not even have the ability to investigate your own car accident. Second, evidence of this car accident can disappear quickly, even days after the crash. You need to act soon, but it may be challenging because of your injuries. Your best bet is to hire an experienced car accident lawyer immediately after the accident. Your attorney will work to gather evidence and develop your case so you are ready to file a claim or lawsuit when it is best for you.

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You Need to Prove that the Other Driver Was Negligent

Two drivers dispute fault following a traffic accident. Explore how to gather evidence, prove negligence, and navigate insurance claims effectively.

When filing a car accident claim, much of your focus is on how much compensation you may receive for your injuries. However, that is the second step of a two-part process. The first part of the legal process is proving that the other driver was to blame for the accident. The two parts of the car accident legal process are sequential. You must successfully make it through the first step of the process to progress to the second.

You have likely heard the term negligence used in a car accident claim, where you must prove that the other driver was negligent to qualify for financial compensation after the accident. The mere fact that a car accident happened does not automatically mean that one or both drivers were negligent. In any personal injury case, negligence is a legal art term with a definite meaning.

How to Prove Negligence in a Car Accident Case

You prove negligence by meeting all four elements of a specific legal test. The individual elements are as follows:

  • The other driver owed you a duty of care. Each driver owes a duty of care to others in the vicinity, so this element is usually not in controversy in a car accident case.
  • The driver breached the duty of care by doing something unreasonable under the circumstances. This element of the negligence test is often the most critical issue in a car accident case. You need to prove that the driver did something wrong that the average driver would not have done. 
  • You suffered an injury.
  • You would not have suffered an injury had it not been for the other driver's actions.

These elements might seem straightforward; after all, the driver should have followed traffic laws and caused your injuries when they failed to do so. However, your car accident attorney will need to provide evidence to satisfy each element up to a specific legal burden of proof. This makes proving negligence more complicated than most car accident victims imagine, and legal representation is necessary.

Each Driver Can Be Telling a Different Story About the Accident

One major problem you can face is that the other driver may be telling a completely different story than yours. They may know what they did and fear being personally liable for the damage they caused you. They may lie and think they can get away with telling a completely different story. You can end up locked in a "truth contest," in which two people tell opposite stories.

As unfair as it may seem, you can break the logjam by presenting evidence to support your side of the story. You must bring proof to support your claims to avoid losing any compensation. In a best-case scenario, you may be partly to blame for the accident, significantly reducing your compensation.

The Police Report Can Only Go So Far

A police report document and a magnifying glass isolated on a white background.

The police report can be helpful when the relevant insurance companies determine liability for the accident. Likely, a police officer showed up at the accident scene and wrote a report. Remember that it is in your best interest to call a police officer after a collision.

The police report has some weight, but it is not necessarily conclusive. The police officer did not see the accident and only recorded their observations. They spoke to people who saw the accident, and they may have even documented what the witnesses said. Still, the officer may have made some mistakes. One tip is to review the accident report closely and point out anything you believe to be incorrect so that the officer can reconsider what they wrote.

You also cannot introduce the police report as evidence in a trial because the police officer cannot testify about what happened during the accident and can only report what others have told them about it. In other words, the police report is hearsay and cannot be used to prove fault in the accident; thus, you cannot over-rely on it as the last word.

Witnesses Are the Best Form of Evidence in a Car Accident Case

You will have to find other ways to prove your case. The best form of proof that you can use in a car accident claim is testimony from objective third-party witnesses. Eyewitnesses can provide valuable accounts of the accident, offering an unbiased perspective. Their statements can support your version of events and give credibility to your claim. If a family member was with you in the car at the time of the accident and they are testifying, they may represent an extension of you and may not be believable as a neutral third party.

Hopefully, you got names and contact information from witnesses at the accident scene. You may have had a brief opportunity to speak with them at the scene. However, you were likely dealing with physical injuries at the time of the crash that may have kept you from talking with other people. The police report may contain the names and contact information of witnesses. Your lawyer can follow up with them after the accident to get their recollections of what they saw. After all, you must include this evidence with your claim to show the insurance company you have the proof necessary to establish liability.

Pictures of the Accident Scene Can Be Helpful

Car insurance agents use smartphones to capture images of vehicles damaged in accidents as evidence for insurance claims.

You may not have witnesses who saw the crash, or you can need additional forms of evidence to back up and corroborate the witness testimony. Pictures from the accident scene can also help because they can show the position of the cars when they came to rest after the crash. You may have proof of the collision's lane and which part of the car struck the other. Again, you may not have been able to take pictures of the scene at the time of the crash because of your physical injuries. Your lawyer can come to the accident scene afterward and take photos of things like debris at the scene or skid marks on the ground, but they may not be as effective as photographs from the time of the accident.

Testimony from an Accident Reconstruction Expert

Lawyers sometimes turn to accident reconstruction experts when they need more evidence to prove their case. In some instances, the expert may corroborate what the witnesses are saying and provide their independent viewpoint on which driver caused the crash. Some expert witnesses only analyze car crashes and opine how they happened and who was to blame.

These experts will use math and physics principles to come to their own conclusions about the crash. They may look at the damage to the cars and pictures from the scene of the accident.

The expert must have an established reputation in their field and use a reliable methodology to reach their conclusion about the accident. Your lawyer will have expert witnesses they have used in the past because they know they are credible and practical.

Of course, the expert's opinion will not be conclusive, which may not win the case for you. If liability is a very close call, the other driver may have their own expert witness. Still, expert witness testimony can benefit your case in many instances.

How Insurance Companies Determine Liability

Your insurance company and that of the other driver will confer in the days after the accident based on their investigation and what they know. They will attempt to determine which driver was to blame for the accident and may divide the fault between the drivers. If the insurance companies cannot agree on the cause of the accident, they will submit the case to an arbitrator, who will then make a determination.

You should already have an attorney before this point. Otherwise, the other driver's insurance company can pressure or trick you into speaking with them. The second you say something, no matter how harmless you think it is, the insurance company can twist your words or act like you gave a confession. You will be disadvantaged at the beginning of the claims process, and hiring an attorney may not benefit you that much.

Insurance Companies Do Not Get the Final Say

While the insurance companies have some power in the process, their word is not final, and they do not always get it right. Every insurance company has its potential conflict, and you can never fully trust your "own" insurance company.

Only a jury has the final say over your legal rights. The insurance company claims process is informal, and these for-profit businesses do not have the same power as a court of law. Therefore, if you disagree with the insurance companies' findings, you can take your case to court and file a lawsuit against the responsible driver. Then, their insurance company will have a legal duty to defend them from your lawsuit. You will present your evidence to the jury, which will then determine liability at the conclusion of the trial.

Hire an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Right After the Accident

You cannot afford to wait to hire a car accident attorney for your case. Time is really of the essence after you have suffered an injury in an accident; the more time passes, the harder it is to build a legal case for compensation. The legal process is not something you can pick up months in the future and still stand a strong chance of getting a settlement check. By then, much of the evidence supporting your claim will be gone, and you will have nothing more than your word.

The first step is to schedule a free consultation with a car accident lawyer. It costs you nothing to speak with an attorney, and you do not need to pay them anything out of your own pocket. You only pay for your lawyer if you reach a settlement agreement or win your case before a jury. Otherwise, you will not have to pay anything for legal representation in a car accident case. There is no risk to get legal help.

Remember, the strength of your car accident case lies in the evidence you present. Gathering and preserving relevant evidence can significantly improve your chances of achieving a favorable outcome. Consulting an experienced personal injury attorney can further enhance your case, as they can guide you on the evidence that will be most beneficial in your situation.

Consultations are free, so there is no reason to wait to schedule yours and begin seeking justice.

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