Establishing Fault After An Auto Accident
Once the shock has worn off after an accident and you’ve become left to deal with the aftermath, establishing fault is an imperative step towards achieving recovery. Various agencies will be employed to help determine fault. The local police, insurance agents, and in some cases, the court will all have a hand in playing detective to discover who’s to blame, and why.
Although focusing on your physical and mental health immediately following your accident should be a top priority, ensuring you are adequately protected when it comes to establishing fault is critical to ensuring you get the compensation you are entitled to for a full recovery. The best way you can do this is by hiring a Las Vegas car accident lawyer.
The Police Investigation
After an accident, the police are typically the first to arrive at the scene. This is where the fault evaluation begins. However, their investigation will vary from other fault-determining agencies. The police aren’t as concerned with the same details as say, a personal injury lawyer, would. Instead, they are more concerned with discovering which laws were broken, why they were broken, and citing traffic law accordingly.
Their investigation is centered on state traffic laws. There are many traffic laws at play during an accident investigation, including driver behavior and vehicle maintenance standards. The police will typically speak with all parties involved in the crash, and they may interview any witnesses. They will also document all physical damage, including vehicular and body. If they conclude that one or all parties broke a traffic law, they will likely issue a citation. If a crime was committed, they could even make an arrest.
The Crash Report
Once they’ve completed their investigation, the police draft up a crash report. This report contains all information pertaining to the crash and is formed solely based on the officers’ opinion. Unless you directly admit fault for the crash (don’t do that), the report will not point a finger in terms of negligence. By completing a crash report, the parties involved in the accident and their attorneys will use this report as a starting point for establishing fault to the insurance companies and the courts.
The Insurance Investigation
As soon as the insurance company is called, they’ll begin their investigation. They will review much of the same information as the police officer, and then some. They’ll require your side of the story, and they’ll request any photographic proof that documents the accident. The insurance company will take their investigation one step further by evaluating medical records to discover any underlying, pre-existing conditions that could have contributed to the crash.
The Insurance Company Looks for Negligence
The insurance company isn’t too much concerned with whether or not traffic law was broken, rather, they’ll try to discover if either party acted negligently, even though breaking traffic law is undoubtedly a reliable indication of fault,
Proving negligence means discovering which party failed to use the amount of care and caution that a reasonable person should have applied in the same situation. A reasonable person isn’t perfect, but they exercise caution and care in terms of their property and the safety of others. If a party acted negligently, their negligence must be a contributing factor to the accident for the person for a person to be held responsible for the accident.
The Insurance Company Examines Your Insurance Policy
Once the insurance company determines fault, they evaluate your policy for recovery provisions. If your policy or the other party’s policy permits payment in the event of a crash, you will be compensated accordingly.
Related: Injured with no health insurance?
If your policy doesn’t cover financial reimbursement, the insurance company can, and likely will deny your claim. However, even if your claim is denied, you can still try your case in court. If brought to court, a jury will make their own determination of fault, regardless of what the insurance company claims.
Establishing Fault In Court
If your claim is taken to court, fault is established through formal legal proceedings. In this case, the Nevada Rules of Evidence come into play. The jury will listen to your side of the story, the opposing party’s side of the story, and they will evaluate all evidence presented to them to make a formal determination as to who is at fault.
Evidence evaluated will typically include witness testimony, photo/video evidence, skid marks, and vehicular damage. Each party will have the chance to present their evidence, but the evidence must be admissible in court.
Once all evidence has been evaluated, the jury determines negligence based on judicial instruction.
Comparative Negligence Standard
Determining fault is not always a streamlined process. When more than one party is involved in a crash, the comparative negligence standard applies. This means that the court will allow a percentage of negligence to each contributing party of the crash.
Even if you are partially responsible, you may still be entitled to recover a percentage. Your award is deducted by the percentage of fault you are found responsible for. In other words, if you’re found 25 percent at fault, you are unable to recover for 25 percent of your damages. However, if you are more than 50 percent to blame, you will not be able to recover at all.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you’re involved in an accident, having an attorney on your side can, and usually will help you establish fault. Establishing fault is essential to securing a maximum financial recovery. All injury consultations are free, and you do not pay a dime until your case settles. Therefore, there is never a reason why you shouldn’t hire an injury lawyer to represent you following an accident. Call The Injury Firm Las Vegas today at (702) 800-0988