What if your car gets hit and you think that the collision was the other driver’s fault, but the other driver’s insurance company thinks that the collision was actually your fault? What happens next? The first thing that you need to know is how to prove that the other driver was at fault. The second thing is understanding how will the claim proceed, given that you and the other insurer differ on the key issue of liability.
If you and the other driver or his/her insurer dispute who was at fault in a car accident case, you have to use the evidence to prove who was actually at fault. This includes physical evidence (i.e., damage to the cars and skid marks on the street, if any) and what the witnesses (including the parties) say happened.
Physical evidence in a car accident case is very important. The location of the damage to the vehicles involved in the car accident can be very strong evidence as to how the accident happened and as to which driver was truly at fault.
Let’s take a simple example. Let’s say that someone runs a red light and hits your car. When that happens, the at-fault car will generally hit your car broadside. This is because you were simply going through the intersection with the green light, as you were entitled to do, when the other driver ran through the red light. Therefore, in a light red accident, the damage will usually be to the front of the negligent driver’s car and to the side of your car. (For further examples and information on this topic, please see How Location of Vehicle Damage Can Indicate Fault.)
Physical evidence is usually proved by photographs. Because the damage to the cars will usually be repaired quickly after the accident, you need to document what happened by taking pictures. In a car accident case, it is really true that a picture is worth a thousand words.
If you are in a car accident, take pictures immediately after the accident if you can. Take as many pictures of both cars, the debris from the cars, the skid marks, if any, and the accident scene as you can from as many angles as you can before you leave the scene. Learn more about How Car Accident Scene Evidence Can Prove Fault.
Neutral witnesses are very important in any litigation, and they are especially important in car accident cases where fault is disputed. Innocent bystanders are truly neutral; they have no stake in the litigation. For this reason, juries (and insurers) tend to believe what the neutral witnesses say.
If the defendant testifies that the light was green when he/she went through it, but a bystander on the sidewalk testifies that the light was red, the jury is probably going to believe the bystander. This is why it is so important to get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone who might have seen part or all of a car accident.
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 but that fault might eventually be disputed, 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 (in the car accident police report). If the officer supports your position on what happened, most insurers will ultimately, if grudgingly, accept that.
If you get hurt in a car accident and file a claim against the other driver’s insurer, but the insurer believes that its driver was not at fault, it will deny your claim. Alternatively, it might offer you a very minimal settlement to drop the case and go away.
As a general rule, if an insurer believes that its driver was not at fault, it may be time for you to get a lawyer. Insurers rarely change their mind about liability when the other side is unrepresented.
If it is the other driver who gets hurt in a car accident and blames you for causing the accident, you need to report the accident to your insurer immediately. Technically, you should report any accident in which you were involved, other than minor accidents, to your insurer immediately, but now you really must report the accident. The matter is now out of your hands. Your insurer will defend you and pay whatever settlement it deems necessary.