Car Accident: Determining Fault by Location of Damage

Damage to vehicles can indicate how the accident happened. Read on to learn more about using vehicle damage to help prove fault for a car accident.

If your car gets hit, and the other driver and his/her insurance company deny responsibility for the accident, you can use the location of the damage on each vehicle to prove that the other driver was at fault. The type of car accident in which it is most often necessary to use damage location to prove liability is a right angle collision (known as a "T-bone" or broadside collision). Right angle collisions can occur at stop signs or traffic lights, when someone is pulling out of a driveway, and when someone makes a left turn across oncoming traffic.

Read on to learn more about using vehicle damage to help prove fault for a car accident.

Using the Evidence to Prove Liability: Examples

Let’s take a couple of examples. Let’s say that you were driving along when someone suddenly pulled out of a driveway to your right and broadsided you. How can you use the location on each vehicle to prove that the other driver was at fault? The easiest way is if the other driver hit you on your passenger side. When that happens, that is pretty clear evidence that the other driver simply wasn’t paying attention to the road. He/she just pulled out of the driveway without looking and hit you.

But the evidence is not always so straightforward. If, for example, the other driver pulled out just before you got there and caused you to hit him/her such that the damage is on your front and his/her driver’s side, now the evidence is less clear cut. The evidence now shows that you hit the other driver. Certainly, it could have been because he/she pulled out in front of you so fast that you were unable to stop in time and so collided with the other car. But the evidence also supports the theory that the other pulled out, was waiting for traffic going the other way to clear, and it was you who wasn’t paying attention and slammed right into him/her.

Another example is when you are driving straight down the road and someone makes a left turn in front of you. Most drivers in your situation will try to swerve to the right to avoid the driver cutting in front of you. So, if the damage is to your left front corner or left front side, that can show that you tried to avoid the accident by swerving. If the damage to the other car is to his/her right front corner, that is evidence that he/she wasn’t paying attention and just cut in front of oncoming traffic.

But if the damage to the turning car is to the right rear corner, that is evidence that it was probably the driver going straight who was not paying attention. The further toward the right rear the damage to the turning car is, the more that shows that the turning car had almost finished his/her turn. The further the turning car gets across the oncoming traffic lane, the more likely it is that the driver going straight will be at fault.

A third example is a traffic light accident. If someone runs a red light, that driver will often hit the other car broadside. This is because the innocent driver was simply going through the intersection with the green light, as he/she has a right to do, when the other driver ran through the red light. In that case, the damage will generally be to the negligent driver’s front and to the innocent driver’s side.

How to Gather Evidence of Vehicle Damage

The three things that you absolutely must do, if at all possible, after a car accident when it appears that the location of the vehicle damage on the cars is going to be important are:

  • get the names of witnesses
  • take pictures before leaving the scene, and
  • call the police.

If there were any witnesses to your accident, make sure that you get their names and contact information. Liability in a car accident case can often be a matter of your word versus the other person’s word, so witnesses can be critical in a car accident case.

If you can, take pictures of the car accident scene immediately. Take as many pictures of both cars, the debris from the car, and the accident scene as you can from as many angles as you can before you leave the scene.

Many states have a law requiring the police to be informed if a car accident causes bodily injury or property damage that exceeds $500 or $1,000. Whatever the situation is, if you believe that the other driver was at fault and that his/her liability might not be completely obvious, you want to get it on record as soon as possible. Call the police and tell them what happened. The other driver might deny it, but at least your version of events is now on record to the police immediately after the accident.

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