When two or more parties are involved in a car accident, they typically have different versions of what caused it. It’s normal for drivers in an accident to attempt to place the blame on the other driver and accept little to no blame themselves.
Even though New York is a no-fault state when it comes to paying the typical expenses of a car accident, those who reach the state’s definition of serious injury can pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the other party.
Understanding how to determine fault in a car accident is a critical step that can mean all the difference when negotiating reimbursement for damages and compensation.
Why Damage Can Help Determine Who's at Fault in a Car Accident
One of the most common ways for an accident reconstruction specialist to determine fault in an accident is to study the location where the accident took place as well as the impact to both vehicles.
When a car moves in a specific direction and at a certain speed, the force of the crash often causes a specific type of damage to each vehicle. Studying each vehicle as soon as possible after the crash is necessary to devise a theory as to how the accident happened.
If you’re fortunate, the accident reconstruction specialist hired by the personal injury law firm of Raphaelson Levine will inspect both vehicles and determine that there’s only one possible way the accident could have occurred.
However, it’s more likely that the review will rule out ways the accident could not have happened without providing a definitive answer as to its cause. In either case, you need an experienced personal injury law firm working hard on your behalf to prove the fault of the other driver.
Determining Fault: When Damage Proves Fault
A rear-end collision is a common example of when damage to the vehicle indicates who caused the accident. New York, like most states, requires the driver traveling behind to maintain control of his or her vehicle.
Crashing into the back end of the car in front is nearly always the fault of the driver in the rear position because he or she did not leave enough stopping distance to avoid a collision.
A driver who fails to stop for a red light and hits the side of another vehicle is another common scenario where it’s easier to know who caused the accident.
It’s apparent by the damage to the front of the at-fault driver’s vehicle and the driver’s side door of the non-negligent party in the accident.
When one driver is moving forward in a straight line and another driver makes a sudden left turn in front of him or her, the natural reaction is to swerve to avoid a crash.
If this occurs, the damage would appear on the left front side and indicate that the non-responsible driver tried to avoid a crash. Additionally, the other vehicle will have damage to the right corner.
When one car broadsides another, which means that it struck the middle of the car on either the driver or passenger side, the damage is typically obvious.
The fact that it’s not on the right bumper proves that one driver was not paying attention when backing into or striking another vehicle on either side.
Determining Fault: When Damage Doesn’t Prove Fault
When considering the question of how to tell who is at fault in a car accident, it isn’t always enough to look at the damage to both vehicles.
One typical example is when one driver has damage to the front end of his or her car and the other has damage on the passenger side.
Although the damage is obvious, a casual observation won’t uncover which driver had the right-of-way at the time of the crash. This is one situation where you would need to rely more on witness testimony than accident investigation.
Examining Damage and Other Car Accident Evidence
After reading the above, you may still wonder how can you tell who hit who in a car accident. That is because the location of damage to each vehicle is only one small way to make this determination.
- Acceleration and speed of each vehicle
- Weather conditions at the time of the accident
- Whether either driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Tire marks at the scene of the accident
Knowing what to do after a car crash that's not your fault can save you time, money, and help you not get ripped off by an insurance company. It’s important to document and gather as much evidence as possible at the scene of the accident to prove that it happened as you say it did.
If you’re physically able, collect the names and contact information of any witnesses to provide to the police. It’s also important to call the police as soon as possible as they will create a report of the accident.
Lastly, take pictures before you leave the scene of the accident if possible. Pictures tell the story in a way that potentially biased reports or eyewitnesses cannot do.
Be sure to take pictures of both vehicles from multiple angles as well as any debris at the scene.
Discuss Your Claim With an Attorney Today
We understand the months after a car accident can be an extraordinarily stressful time in your life, especially when been caused to miss time from work, sustained property damage, medical expenses, and other losses.
We will explain accident reconstruction in greater detail as well as let you know if you’re a good candidate to file a personal injury lawsuit.