It is not unusual in car accident cases for one driver to say that the collision happened one way, and for the other driver to say something completely different.
“The light was green.”
“No, it was red.”
How do you prove fault in a car accident case when you say one thing, and the other drivers says just the opposite? In this type of case, you have to rely on four major things:
In the sections that follow, we'll take a closer look at these four factors.
Credibility is believability. If the driver that hit you says that it was your fault, but he/she is not credible, the jury will generally not believe him/her. Some factors that affect a jury’s thinking about credibility are:
In any type of personal injury case, the jury is likely to think that the parties (i.e., the plaintiff and the defendant) are biased witnesses because they have a stake in the result. After all, the plaintiff is suing the defendant for money. But neutral witnesses are just that -- neutral; they have no stake in the result. Therefore, they can be the most important witnesses at the trial. Juries tend to believe the testimony of neutral witnesses, as long as they are credible.
For this reason, you should always try to get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone who might have witnessed part or all of the accident, or who might have witnessed the other driver’s behavior and actions before or after the actual collision.
So, if the other driver testifies that the accident was all your fault, but three neutral witnesses testify that the accident happened the way that you remember, and not the way that the other driver testified, then you will likely win the case. (Learn more about questions for car accident witnesses.)
Physical evidence is real evidence, not testimony. Physical evidence is the vehicles involved in the accident and the accident scene itself. The physical evidence is depicted at trial by photographs, where a picture truly is worth a thousand words.
If the physical evidence shows that the accident was most likely the other driver’s fault, it really doesn’t matter what his/her story is, the jury will most likely believe your testimony. So, when the physical evidence favors the plaintiff, the defense attorney generally settles the case in the plaintiff’s favor. And when the physical evidence favors the defendant, then the plaintiff’s lawyer will usually have a long talk with the plaintiff about why he/she should take a very modest settlement and get the case over with.
Learn more about using car accident scene evidence to prove fault.
If you can, take pictures immediately after the accident. If you have a camera or a camera phone, take as many pictures of both cars and the accident scene as you can from as many angles as you can before you leave the scene.
Walk down the street in the direction the defendant came from and take pictures of the intersection, the stop sign, and any skid marks in the street. Take pictures of the debris from the cars, if there was any. If you were with anyone, take pictures of that person standing at the exact point of the collision.
If you do not have a camera or are not physically able to take any pictures after your injury, have a friend or relative take pictures of the intersection and of your car as soon as possible, and certainly before you get your car repaired.
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. Either way, if you get hurt or suffer vehicle damage in a car accident and believe that the other driver was at fault, you want to get it on record as soon as possible. Call the police and tell them what happened. Even if the other driver says something completely different, at least your version of events is now on record to the police immediately after the accident.
However, the testimony of police officers can go both ways. Police officers are neutral witnesses, as well as official witnesses. Jurors tend to believe them in car accident cases. Whatever the police officer writes down as your and the other driver’s stories, that is likely what the jury will believe. So make sure that you explain what happened very clearly and carefully to the responding officer so that he/she takes it down accurately and it is preserved in the police report.