When a car accident happens, sometimes the parties involved disagree on who is at fault or acted negligently in causing the collision. So how can a person prove they are not at fault in a car accident.
To establish fault obtain a copy of the accident report, review the law, and gather witness statements. These are some steps you can take to establish you are not at fault in a car accident.
Often it is clear who is at fault for the collision, but for the times when fault isn’t so apparent, you need to take steps to prove you are not at fault.
Proving fault is essential in determining which party is legally responsible for paying for the damages caused by the collision. In cases that fault isn’t apparent, there are some steps; you can take to establish liability.
Police Report is used to establish Fault
If you are involved in an accident, you must call the police. The investigating officer will fill out a standard accident report. In this report, he is required to note the traffic conditions, time of the accident, weather conditions, and many other crucial details.
One of the essential tasks of the investigating officer is taking statements of not only the parties but also any witnesses. He should include the witnesses name, address, and telephone numbers in his report.
The officer may take pictures of the scene and provide a narrative of his opinion based on the information he has gathered. The report should also note the length of any skid marks and state any traffic law violations and the impairments of the driver.
Traffic law violations and impairments of the driver can be useful in supporting your position. Ask the investigating officer how you can obtain a copy of the report. Also, request the officers’ name and the law enforcement agency he represents.
Review the accident report. If you find any mistakes by the investigating officer, you can amend the report. Sometimes they make factual errors, such as the wrong times, or incorrect vehicle or insurance information. Generally, you can request a correction by supplying proof to confirm the error.
Factual changes concerning fault is more difficult. Each police department has a procedure for objecting or challenging a report. Contact the department involved in your case and request the procedures. The most common procedure is to attach a copy of your concerns to the initial report.
Research the Law
Use the internet and research the specifics concerning your accident. There may be some parish or state statutes that apply to your case. Check the laws on roadway markings, speed limits, and right of way.
The Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles division has laws accessible online. If the accident occurred in a city and involves city violations, they likely have the traffic statutes online, if not check the local library and city police office. Any violations of the law will bolster your position.
An independent witness could be a pillar to establishing fault in a car accident. After an accident, all witnesses contact information should be gathered by you.
The investigating officer should have documented the witnesses names, telephone numbers, and addresses on the accident report. Frequently they will take statements from the witnesses and include the statements in the report.
Sometimes the witness statements are not written clearly or don’t accurately memorialize the accounts as you remember hearing at them while at the scene of the accident.
You need to contact the witness and ask for their honest recollection of the facts surrounding the accident. If the witness bolsters your position, ask them to provide an affidavit or witness statement. You can volunteer to draft the account based on their conversation.
It is not unreasonable for a person not to want to take the time to write up a witness statement for a person they don’t know. If you are willing to draft the document and they only have to sign you are more likely to receive a positive response.
Presumption of Negligence
The presumption of negligence applied in cases when a violation of law or standard practices caused an accident. The presumption of negligence is often used in rear-end cases.
In a rear-end collision it is presumed that the following driver was not prudently driving his car. He was either following too closely for the road conditions, driving inattentively or speeding. In a rear-end case, the location of the damages to the vehicles are often enough evidence necessary to prove fault.
It is important to be aware that Louisiana is a comparative negligence state. In limited cases, the following vehicle may not be 100 percent at fault in causing an accident.
If a party is rear-ended and found partially at fault, their recovery will be reduced by the percentage of their responsibility. Facts and circumstances can overcome the presumption of negligence in some instances. See Cheairs v. State ex rel. Dept. of Transp. & Dev., 861 So.2d 536 (La. 2003).
There is also a presumption of negligence in collisions caused by a left-turning car. If a car is traveling straight down a road and a car makes a left-hand turn, the turning vehicle is presumed at fault.
The damage to the vehicles is critical in identifying the fault. In a left-turning accident, the damage would be on the front-end of one car and the front-right side of the other.
Just like in a rear-end cases there are exceptions to the “no-fault” provision for left-hand turns. If for example, the car going straight was speeding or ran a red light.