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News Stories

How Is Fault Determined in a California Car Accident?

The last thing anybody expects is that they will be involved in a vehicle accident when they get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, vehicle accidents do occur, and there are rarely any drivers on the roadway who have not been in an accident in the past. One of the most important aspects of the aftermath of a vehicle accident is determining fault.

If liability cannot be assigned, how can the parties involved recover the compensation they are entitled to?

Because determining liability is so important, we want to take a moment and highlight how this process works after a California car accident.

Gathering Evidence at the Scene of the Crash

The number one way that liability will be determined after a vehicle accident in California is by examining the evidence at the scene. Just about any vehicle accident in the state needs to be reported to law enforcement officials, and these officials need to come to the scene of the crash to conduct a preliminary investigation.

However, we always suggest that individuals involved in vehicle accidents gather their own evidence if they can do so and if the scene is safe. This could include using a cell phone or another type of camera to take photographs of everything at the scene, including vehicle damage, injuries, debris, traffic and weather conditions, causes of the crash, and more.

In addition to gathering this evidence, it is crucial to get any eyewitnesses’ names and contact information for the crash. After these individuals leave the scene, there will be no way of contacting them again if you do not get their information.

Police officers who respond to the crash will likely be gathering all this evidence as well, but it is important not to rely on this.

The Police Report

Because most vehicle accidents have to be reported to the police, the police report will be one of the main types of evidence used to determine liability. Insurance carriers will almost always ask for the police report when they are conducting their own investigation into the crash. However, all the evidence you gather at the car accident scene will also be analyzed by the insurance carrier. In general, the more evidence that the insurance carriers have to determine liability, the better.

Continuing to Gather Evidence in the Days and Weeks Following the Crash

It may be necessary to continue gathering evidence in the aftermath of a vehicle accident. The reality is that the scene of a crash may be too chaotic, and the injuries may be too severe for much evidence-gathering to occur.

Often, vehicle accident victims need to work with a San Bernardino car accident lawyer to ensure that they receive the compensation they are entitled to. An attorney can use their resources to obtain additional evidence that may be difficult for the crash victim to obtain. This can include video surveillance from nearby cameras on homes or businesses. This can also include “black box” data from the vehicles involved. Sometimes, gathering evidence after a crash requires going through the court system to get a subpoena. This is all part of determining liability after the vehicle crash occurs.

Possibly Working With Accident Reconstruction Experts

In some cases, it may be necessary to work with accident reconstruction experts to help determine fault after a crash. If the evidence is not exactly clear about who caused the incident, accident reconstruction experts can use their scientific knowledge as well as the evidence that has already been gathered to piece together exactly what happened at the scene.

Accident reconstruction expert reports are often used by insurance carriers when deciding about compensation, and it is not uncommon for reconstruction experts to testify during a personal injury trial. Hiring a lawyer can help with this process, and here are some questions to ask a car accident lawyer before hiring them.