After a car accident, your first priority should be seeking any necessary medical care. However, documenting your vehicle damage can prove useful in establishing liability for your injuries. Although fault isn't solely determined by vehicle damage, it often proves to be a crucial piece of evidence in a successful personal injury claim.
Examples of How Fault Can Be Proven With Vehicle Damage
It's been well established that certain types of car accidents are associated with specific forms of vehicle damage. For example:
- Rear-end collision. In this type of traffic accident, the back of one car is damaged, and the front of the other car is damaged. The driver who hits the other car from behind is generally at fault for the accident.
- Left turn accident. Typically, you'll see damage to the front end of one car and the right side of the other after a left turn accident. In this type of accident, the car making the left turn is generally considered at fault.
- Running a red light. In an accident where the negligent driver ran a red light, he will often hit the other vehicle broadside as it's going through the intersection with a green light. The damage will typically be to the at-fault driver’s front and to the other driver’s side.
Although vehicle damage can play a key role in your claim, it's not the only type of evidence at your disposal. Vehicle damage is often used with reports from law enforcement officers, witness testimony, and pictures of the accident scene to support your claim. For example, if a witness reports that you were driving straight down the road and someone turned left in front of you, damage to your vehicle's left corner or left front side would support testimony that you tried to swerve to avoid the accident. Damage to the right front corner of the other driver's vehicle would support a claim that he wasn't paying attention and simply cut in front of traffic.
In high value cases where the evidence is inconclusive, an accident reconstruction expert may be called in to testify as to the likely sequence of events. Reconstruction experts have advanced training in physics, dynamics, and engineering. They'll use vehicle damage reports as well as evidence from the scene to prepare their analysis.
Fault and Eligibility for Compensation
While many accidents have one driver who is clearly at fault, it's possible for both drivers to have contributed to an accident. If one driver was running a red light and the other was speeding, both may be partially at fault for the accident. Another common example of shared liability would be if one driver was tailgating and the other didn't use turn signals.
Louisiana is one of several states that uses a comparative fault system for determining eligibility for car accident compensation. This means you can collect compensation from the other driver regardless of whether you were at fault for the accident. However, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
For example, let's say that a driver would normally be eligible for $20,000 due to medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If he's determined to be 25 percent at fault for the accident, he loses the ability to collect $5,000 or 25 percent of the amount he'd otherwise receive. Therefore, he receives a settlement for $15,000.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no one set formula used to determine fault for an accident. In fact, a skilled personal injury attorney can often increase your eligibility for compensation by negotiating a lower percentage of fault.
Protecting Your Rights
If you've been injured in a car accident, you have one year from the time of the accident to file a personal injury suit. The legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is committed to helping Louisiana residents receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives, but it’s crucial that you file within the state’s statute of limitations. To learn more, call 318-541-8188, or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.