What Types of Evidence are Needed in a Car Accident Case?
Driving on California’s road and highways can be risky at best. The California Highway Patrol reported that every year, more than 223,000 people were injured and an additional 3,104 people died due to traffic accidents in our state. Regardless of the extent of the accident, knowing in advance what to do can help you avoid costly mistakes. What should you do after an accident? What can you expect when you file a claim with your insurance company? What type of evidence will prove most helpful?
The injuries from collisions can be severe and often leave victims facing expensive medical bills, loss of income and even permanent disabilities. Families who lose a loved one are not only left with grief, but often with lost financial contribution and support to the household. Fortunately, there are options for car accident victims in California to hold the driver who was at fault responsible for their losses.
Evidence Used to Prove Fault in a California Car Accident Case
If another driver hits you and injures you, you must prove the accident was the fault of the other driver before you can receive any monetary compensation for your injuries. When there is a car accident, two things are examined: liability and negligence. A driver is expected to exhibit a reasonable duty of care to avoid harming others. It is possible to have more than one driver who is liable or who was negligent.
Negligence & Liability
Liability is defined in local, state and federal laws and is a method for assigning responsibility for the accident. This is taken into account when an insurance company decides whether to pay for an accident caused by their policy holder. Liability can be used during litigation to defend or prosecute someone. The liable party pays for the damages.
Negligence occurs when someone fails to take reasonable care to act in a manner that protects others. When driving, negligent behavior is seen when someone fails to obey traffic laws, runs red lights, fails to yield to others, makes illegal turns, uses a cell phone or does other activity that causes an accident. It essentially is carelessness, not paying full attention to driving their car.
Responsibility – Some states have “comparative negligence” policies, while others have “contributory negligence” policies. The determining factor here is whether a driver was partially at fault for the accident. The California judicial system allows a defendant to claim comparative negligence as a defense to reduce his or her own fault in a case. For example, a defendant who is only 40 percent at fault for contributing to a car accident will only be 40 percent liable for the award that a plaintiff receives.
The elements of negligence are as follows:
- The duty of care
- The breach of the said duty of care
- Causation: the negligent actions were the ones to cause the injury
- Damages: the physical or material damages were a direct result of those negligent action
It is important to prove all of these elements when stating your case in front of the judge and jury. Our team of personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles is able to help you follow the legal steps, according to the particularities of your case and what caused the accident.
Common causes of driver negligence can include:
- Not paying attention, like texting while driving
- Failure to yield to other drivers
- Failure to signal or maintain a proper safe distance from the car in front
EVIDENCE YOU SHOULD GATHER
Contact Information of Other Drivers and Witnesses
If possible, do not let the other driver leave the scene without gathering all contact information, including driver’s license number, insurance paperwork, license plate number and phone number. However, if it is a hit and run, do not chase the other driver. Just get the license plate and call the police. If the other driver does stop but claims not to have a driver’s license with them, ask to see any official document or license with a name and address, for example, the car registration, insurance card, or even a credit card.
Admissions by the Defendant
Any statements that a defendant makes to you, to other witnesses or to the responding police officers are relevant to your accident claim. In many California car accident cases, negligent drivers will make statements at the scene of the crash that suggest they are at fault. In some cases, negligent drivers may even admit to their misconduct. This is important evidence that should be recorded.
Witnesses can be very important in a car accident case. If you are aware of any other drivers or pedestrians who witnessed any part of the accident or the other driver’s actions before the accident, try to get the contact information (address and phone) of those people. Witness statements can include statements from you, your passengers, the other people involved in the crash and any unrelated third parties who may have witnessed the incident. At the scene of your accident, you should try to get the name and contact information of any eyewitnesses who may be able to provide testimony on your behalf. If you are having trouble getting witnesses to help you, your San Francisco car accident lawyer can help you track them down.
Video and Photographs
Visual evidence is highly convincing. If possible, you should try to document your crash with photos and video. The more pictures and videos you take of the collision, the stronger your case will be if an insurance dispute arises. This visual evidence can be used to help recreate the wreck so that you can prove fault. Walk around the scene of the accident and take pictures of the surrounding area from all directions, as well as close-ups and wide view shots. Be on the lookout for skid marks, traffic control devices (like stoplights or stop signs) and anything else that could be important. If you think that a potential witness had a good vantage point, take a picture from their location as well as getting their contact information.
The Police Report
If you were involved in a serious crash, always call police to the scene of an accident so that they can prepare an official report. You are able to get a copy of this report to use in your case, as it is public record. The report could give the officer’s conclusion as to who was at fault in the accident.
EVIDENCE YOUR ATTORNEY WILL GATHER
- Photographs and videos of the car accident scene
- Physical evidence from the accident scene, such as measurements of skid marks, road debris, etc.
- Videos from nearby surveillance cameras
- Physical evidence from the vehicles involved in the crash, including electronic data
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Copies of accident reports and police reports
- Medical records
- Copies of cell phone records and text messages
- Testimony from expert witnesses, including accident reconstructionists
- If a commercial truck is involved, copies of the driver’s logs, maintenance records, truck’s black box, and other information from the trucking company
An attorney performs a comprehensive investigation to gather evidence after a car accident. If you are injured, it can be difficult to take these steps yourself. Also, an attorney has resources that you might not have available to gather and preserve the evidence you need for your car accident case.
You may also need evidence that proves the extent of your injuries, losses and financial damages. This evidence is used to calculate the value of your injury claim. The value of your injury claim includes your financial losses and your noneconomic damages.
Financial losses are the out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident and your recovery, such as medical costs, loss of income, medications, ER bills and personal care. However, you are also entitled to compensation for your noneconomic damages or “pain and suffering” damages. Your non-economic damages include emotional distress, physical pain, permanent disabilities and loss of quality of life.
Calculating the value of a car accident claim can be difficult. There is not an exact formula for calculating noneconomic damages. However, an experienced car accident attorney understands how to use the evidence in your case to maximize the value claimed for pain and suffering damages.
Contact a California Car Accident Attorney for More Information
If your accident is one where fault isn’t easily proven, this is where an experienced attorney can really help. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, please contact our Personal Injury Attorneys at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your legal options. A free consultation is just a phone call away. An experienced attorney can answer your questions, investigate the accident and file your paperwork to ensure that your case is properly prepared and filed within the time limit required by the court.