Unless you live in a no-fault state, the person who causes a car accident—and their insurance company—is responsible for the cost of injuries and auto damage. (This is the case in Illinois and Missouri, where Hipskind & McAninch is located.) In the best-case scenario, the injured party files a claim and receives full compensation for any expenses related to the crash.
It’s unfortunate, but insurance companies often go to great lengths to avoid paying a claim. They may try to shift blame for a crash away from their client. If you’re the victim in a wreck, you may be certain that it wasn’t your fault. But will you be able to prove it? Proving you are not at fault for a car accident is essential to getting the compensation you deserve for your losses.
Prepare to Defend Yourself
The details of a crash, and who caused it, may seem crystal clear to the victim. That doesn’t mean their version of events won’t be challenged by the at-fault driver or the insurance company. Victims should treat every accident as if they will need to defend their position in court because there is always a chance it could come to that.
Two actions can make a difference in the outcome, especially when there are injuries: Gathering evidence and consulting with a personal injury attorney. Car accident lawyers like Hipskind & McAninch know what evidence is necessary to prove who is at fault and can help collect and organize it. Our attorneys’ experience dealing with insurance companies allows us to help file claims and negotiate settlements. And, they can fight to get the victim compensation if the matter ends up in court.
Getting compensated for a car accident case hinges on proving the following:
- The victim sustained injuries and/or their car was damaged.
- The accident was the direct cause of the injuries or damage
- The other driver was to blame for the accident
Collecting evidence should begin immediately after a car accident. Details from the crash site are what will be the foundation of a victim’s defense. Here’s what a victim needs to know:
Documenting the Scene
Evidence from the scene of the accident can help prove who was at fault. Victims should take pictures and videos of the crash site. If they are too injured to do so, they should ask a passenger or witness to the crash to do it for them.
Pictures of the cars’ damage are necessary, but several less obvious things may help too. The goal is to tell the complete story of what happened. Make sure to take photos from a variety of angles. In addition to all cars involved, capture an image of the debris before it’s cleaned up. Include pictures of nearby signage and aspects of the roadway, for example, the intersection, turn lanes, curves, hills, or any obstructions in the road—anything that may have contributed to the crash.
Also, note the weather conditions. If it’s foggy, icy, snowing, or raining, try to capture that in a photo. Take a selfie or have a bystander take photos of any visible injuries immediately following the crash.
Finally, find out if there are any traffic cameras or surveillance cameras at nearby businesses that could have captured what happened.
The Police Report
The police should be called to the scene of any serious crash. They will make a report that will be given to each driver. It will list each driver’s name, contact information, and insurance details, but it’s a good idea for both parties to trade this information with one another too.
An accident report can contain a wealth of information that could help make the victim’s case that they were not at fault. It may include the officer’s observations and opinions about what happened. It will also have a record of any traffic violations and tickets that were issued.
Breaking Traffic Laws
If one driver gets a traffic ticket as the result of a car crash it may be an indication of their guilt. It could help the victim prove they were not the one at fault. But that’s not always the case. The ticket could be for something like not wearing a seatbelt or an expired license, neither of which can cause an accident.
On the other hand, speeding, illegal lane usage, or driving under the influence could certainly be to blame, or at least contribute, to a crash. An attorney can be a big help not only in deciphering the vehicle codes but communicating them clearly and correctly to the insurance company.
In some instances, both drivers might get tickets at the scene. The victim may need to fight the ticket as part of the attempt to prove they were not at fault. Again, hiring an attorney is the best solution for a successful outcome.
When someone is involved in an accident, it is important to talk to anyone who may have seen what happened. They may be able to help prove who was at fault. If they can stick around until the police arrive, their statement may be included in the official police report. Ask for their name and contact information in case it’s necessary to follow up with them later.
Even if witnesses didn’t see the entire event or saw it from a different angle, their testimony could become valuable in proving the guilt or innocence of the parties involved.
Be Cautious About What You Say
In the chaos following an accident, stress can make people say things they shouldn’t. Some may get angry at the other driver. Others might apologize—even if they’ve done nothing wrong. Victims, especially, need to be careful about what they say in these emotionally charged situations. Statements like “I didn’t see your car,” or “I looked away for a second,” could be misconstrued or even purposely twisted to place blame on an innocent person.
After an accident, aside from providing contact and insurance information to the other driver, it’s best not to say much else. When speaking with police officers stick to the facts and answer questions honestly. Don’t be evasive or withhold information, but avoid saying anything that could potentially prevent proving you are not at fault.
Can Someone Be Partly At Fault?
Responsibility for a car accident is handled differently depending on the state. As we mentioned, some states are no-fault states, meaning each driver’s insurance pays his or her own claim, regardless of who was to blame for the accident.
In Missouri and Illinois, it does matter who caused an accident, but even then, there is a difference in how claims are paid.
Missouri is known as a pure comparative negligence state. This means that insurance companies settle claims based on the percentage of blame each driver has in an accident. For example, let’s say that both drivers made mistakes that resulted in a crash. If one driver was found to be 80% responsible and the other 20% responsible, that is how the settlement will be structured. The settlement will be divided, paying the first driver 20% of the total, with the remainder going to the second driver.
In Illinois, the person who is most at fault shoulders 100% of the liability. It is a modified comparative negligence state. So, in the same scenario, the driver who was 80% responsible gets nothing, while the other driver would receive 100% of the settlement.
A Car Accident Attorney Can Help Prove You’re Not At Fault
The fact that in some states, a victim in a car crash could be assigned partial blame, makes it even more important to consult a lawyer after an accident. They can help prove who is really at fault, ensuring that you receive full compensation for your injuries and car damage.