Who’s responsible for an accident is a judgment based on evidence and how it’s interpreted. A critical job that Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, LLP does for our clients is investigating their accidents. We develop the facts to show whether the client has a case and, if so, how strong it is. We’re not the only ones looking into the accident. The other driver’s insurance company, or investigators and lawyers they hire, are doing the same thing.
The facts of your accident are the foundation of your case. We will spell out the facts to show them you’re not to blame and may provide expert opinion too. The insurance company is entitled to their beliefs, but if it’s not based on the evidence and they’re not negotiating in good faith, we’ll take your case to court, and the jury will decide the outcome.
Texas law requires a plaintiff (the injured party filing the lawsuit) to prove the defendant (the driver being sued) is more responsible for the accident than they are. If the insurance carrier doesn’t think you can carry that burden of proof or thinks they have enough evidence to make a jury second-guess your claims, they may refuse to offer a fair settlement and be more willing to risk a loss at a trial.
The Facts Show What Happened and Who’s to Blame
Every accident’s unique, though many fall into predictable patterns. Some facts may be critical to one case but not be present in another. Here are facts that the insurance company and we may look to when establishing who has what degree of fault:
- The Parties’ Statements
You’ll give us your statement, and the insurance company will tell us the other driver’s side of the story. If the claim proceeds and a lawsuit’s filed, there will be discovery. This is part of litigation where both sides send written questions to each other, ask for relevant documents, and the parties and potential witnesses are questioned under oath by attorneys for both sides (depositions).
Depositions can be critical. A party’s story may not make sense or contradicts other evidence. Whether the person handles cross-examination well may be an essential factor when deciding whether or not going to trial makes sense. If a party or key witnesses don’t do well, putting them in front of a jury can be a big risk.
- The Eyewitnesses’ Statements
Ideally, there are witnesses to what happened. They may be passengers, other drivers, or pedestrians in the area. Though memories fade and witnesses make mistakes, hearing from third parties may be very persuasive.
Someone in the vehicle could testify the driver was focused and driving safely. They may instead state the driver was speeding, drank alcohol before driving, was erratic, or was involved in an argument at the time of the crash.
- Video and Photographic Evidence
Someone in one of the vehicles may have been taking a video at the time. Accidents frequently happen at intersections, and many have cameras monitoring traffic. There may also be cameras in nearby homes or businesses that can shed light on what happened.
After the accident, a driver may take photos or a video showing the vehicles’ damage and placement on the road. The responding officer may have dashcam footage of the scene and may carry video and audio recording devices with them. A recording of a driver saying one thing at the scene but telling a different story afterward shows they’re not credible.
- Physical Evidence
This includes skid marks, vehicle damage, damage to surrounding objects, and evidence of driver impairment or intoxication. Skid marks and damage can be used to estimate a vehicle’s speed and direction. The absence of skid marks could show the driver was passed out, asleep, tired, or distracted before the collision.
Where the vehicles struck each other is critical evidence. If you were rear-ended, it’s presumed the other driver was at fault. If it was a head-on collision and you were in the proper lane, the other driver was going the wrong way. A T-bone accident, where the front of one vehicle strikes the side of the other, may show responsibility. If it’s an intersection where you didn’t have a stop sign, but the other driver did, and they struck you, it’s evidence they ran the stop sign.
Open beer cans and or liquor bottles in a car may show the driver was intoxicated. Medication bottles, marijuana, illegal drugs, or drug paraphernalia may establish drugs impaired the driver.
- Cell Phone Records
The smartphone and or the driver’s service provider may show the driver was distracted at the time of the accident because they were texting, speaking on the phone, or using an app.
- The Vehicle’s Event Data Recorder
Unless the vehicle is older, it probably has airbag safety devices. They’re connected to a small computer that triggers them based on what’s happening with the car. It saves data about what happened just before, during, and after the accident, like a “black box” in an airplane. That data can be retrieved and show important information such as:
- How fast the vehicle accelerated
- The force of impact
- How long the crash lasted
- Whether the driver used the brakes
- The vehicle’s speed
- Whether occupants used seatbelts
- Whether airbags inflated
- Seat positions
- The number of impacts
Assuming the devices are functional and survived the accident, they could provide essential information from both vehicles.
- Car Repair Records
If the other vehicle’s condition is at issue (such as worn tires or bad brakes), we can get repair and maintenance records from the other driver or where they have it serviced. The other driver’s mechanic may be a witness to discuss what the other driver knew about the car and what they decided to do about it.
- Medical Records
What injuries were suffered and their severity may help show the speed of the vehicles during impact and the angle at which they collided.
- Criminal Evidence
Driving dangerously is against the law. If the other driver is ticketed or arrested, that helps your case. What’s even more helpful is if the person admits guilt, pays the ticket, pleads guilty to the charges, or is found guilty after a trial. While investigating and prosecuting these charges, law enforcement probably came up with good evidence that you may be able to use in your case.
The Facts are Interpreted as Showing Who’s to Blame
After the facts are gathered, they’re interpreted by both drivers, the insurance company, and our firm. The police may have their own opinions too.
- The Police Report, Ticketing, and Charging Crimes
The investigating officer working on your case will, after getting the basic information, may ticket or charge neither driver, one of you, or both, depending on the evidence. If the officer blames you in the accident report, based on the evidence we find and what the officer may have overlooked, we will ask them to amend it to better show what happened.
It will hurt your case if you’re issued a ticket or charged with a crime. The insurance company will blame you and may be very uncooperative with negotiations. You would need help from a criminal defense attorney on how to address your situation. No matter what you do, you need to understand how your course of action impacts your exposure to criminal liability and how it affects your ability to collect compensation in your civil suit.
- The Expert’s Role in Establishing Responsibility
If the insurance company wrongly accuses you of causing the accident, we fight that by spelling out the facts of the accident and how they should be interpreted. That can involve hiring an expert who, given the facts, recreates vehicle accidents to give their opinion of what happened, how, and why.
This person must not only be very scientific in their approach and an expert in engineering and physics but a good storyteller. They need to explain the science and their opinion in a clear way that convinces the insurance company and jury members you’re the victim in the case. A well-documented and written expert report may be enough to shift an insurance company’s position. They may be more willing to offer a better settlement and prevent a trial.
Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, LLP Helps Those Seriously Injured in Vehicle Accidents
Our attorneys have many years of experience helping car accident victims. One of the biggest benefits of retaining us is that we deal with the insurance company, so you won’t have to. You can focus on your family and recovery while we work to get you the best outcome possible. Don’t worry about costs when you call us at 713-893-0971 – we work on contingency, and we’ll evaluate your case during a free consultation.