Proving Liability in a Car Accident

Am I at fault?

A car accident can be a traumatic experience, especially if someone is hurt.  And maybe one of the first things to run through your mind is “was it my fault?”  This is where we come to negligence and what that is.  Negligence is basically carelessness.  When someone isn’t being careful and drives through a stop sign, that’s negligence.  When someone isn’t paying attention and fails to yield at a pedestrian walkway, that’s negligence.  Anytime someone acts unreasonable and without regard for other people, that’s negligence.  If you are the negligent person in any car accident, you are at fault, and are legally responsible for the other person’s injuries.  If you are the victim of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to receive financial compensation for your injuries.  Now proving negligence in court is a whole other story.

A lot of times, it is plainly obvious who was at fault.  This is known as “No doubt” liability.  In certain kinds of accidents, one of the drivers is 99% at fault for the accident.  For example, let’s take a rear end collision.  If you were hit from behind the accident is almost never your fault.  By law drivers are supposed to stay a safe distance behind other cars so they can stop safely when necessary.  Another way to prove fault is to look at the auto damage.  If one of the car’s front end is damaged, and the other car’s rear end is damaged, then it’s pretty clear who hit who.  But even this can get a little tricky.  The driver that hit you may have a claim against a third party.  They may want to blame the driver of the car in front of you that made you stop suddenly, or the driver of the car behind them that slammed into their car, which in turn pushed them into yours.  So what if you were rear ended at night, and one of your brake lights was out?  This is when some of that fault would be placed on you.  This is called comparative negligence. 

A police statement can also be helpful in proving accident liability.  An officer may state his/her opinion in the police report about any traffic violations or negligence they think caused the car wreck.  It may also show any citations issued.  Just the mention of these faults by an officer will greatly influence who is deemed the negligent party, even if the report isn’t very specific.  Insurance companies will also refer to this report when deciding on settlements.  You’ll want to be sure to get a copy of the accident report for your records.

The “Rules of the Road,” also known as your State driving laws, can also help determine who was negligent.   You can find these laws at your local DMV, online or at many public libraries.  You’ll want to look for “Code Laws,” more specifically code laws that relate to your accident.  Speed limits, right of way, road markings or yield laws are some examples.  If you find a code that applies to your accident, you can bring that to the attention of the insurance companies and it may help with your settlement. 

Even in a very “simple” and common car wreck, like a rear end accident, it can be difficult to prove negligence, so it might be safe to assume that more complex car wrecks are just that, more complex.  That’s why it’s so important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney.  The auto accident lawyers at Fisher Stark, P.A. are knowledgeable and can provide an assessment and course of action dependant on the specific situation.  Please call us at 828.505.4300 if you have any questions regarding your role in an auto accident.  The consultation is free and if you’ve been injured we may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve.

We proudly serve the communities of Western North Carolina including Buncombe County, Henderson County, Madison County, Transylvania County and Haywood County

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We are North Carolina personal injury lawyers. We are attorneys that serve Western North Carolina and beyond. If you've been injured please contact us at 1.828.505.4300