Determining Fault by the Location of Damage
In a car accident, it is vital that you determine who was responsible for the crash. This is called determining “fault.”
Because Nevada is a fault state, the driver who is responsible for the crash must pay compensation to victims. This compensation will cover medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. If you are at fault, then you cannot make a claim with a liability insurance carrier, who only pays out benefits to those not responsible for collisions.
Fault is sometimes obvious. For example, one driver might admit that she is to blame for striking another vehicle. However, fault can sometimes be hotly disputed, precisely because each side’s ability to obtain compensation depends on blaming the other driver.
There are many ways to prove fault, and a lot of evidence is helpful. Short of an admission from a driver or videotape of the collision, your attorney will need to look at a variety of evidence to help prove you are not responsible for the crash. One helpful piece of evidence is the location of the damage on your car, which can yield important clues about who is to blame.
Damage and Car Accidents
Different types of car accidents will leave damage on different locations of your car. For example:
Head on collision. This type of crash will obviously damage the front bumper of your car. It should also damage the front bumper of the vehicle you collided with.
Rear-end collision. If you were rear-ended, then your back bumper should show signs of damage. The car that hit you should have damage on the front bumper.
T-bone collision. In this type of crash (also called a side-impact collision), your vehicle should be damaged on the side. The vehicle that hit you should have damage on its front bumper.
Side-swipe. Each car involved should have damage on its side where the two vehicles scraped together.
Rollover. The location of the damage will depend on the circumstances. Some vehicles roll onto their sides after being struck in the rear, on the side, or even in the front. The vehicle that clipped you could have damage on different locations.
What the Damage to Your Car Can Tell You
By looking at vehicle damage, we can try to work back and figure out how the collision happened and, from there, assign fault for the crash. By analyzing the damage, you can begin to recreate the accident.
Specifically, a vehicle travelling in a certain direction at a certain speed should sustain particular damage when it collides with another vehicle. By looking at the damage to both vehicles, we can begin to sketch out how the accident unfolded.
Sometimes, the damage will show exactly how the accident occurred. A head-on collision is a prime example. When both vehicles have damage to their front fenders, then it is clear they collided with each other at that impact point.
In other cases, things are not so clear, but looking at the damage will eliminate certain possibilities. For example, if your vehicle rolls over, you might not be able to tell solely by looking at the damage what ultimately triggered the vehicle flipping onto its hood or its side.
Why Damage Alone Cannot Prove Fault in an Accident
Even if it is clear how an accident unfolded, that does not mean you automatically can prove fault. Let us take a simple example:
The damage to your vehicle shows that you were rear-ended by the car behind you. Because that car struck you, you might assume that its driver is automatically at fault for the accident. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Admittedly, the vehicle trailing will be at fault in many accidents. But it is not always at fault.
For example, the vehicle trailing behind might not have been tailgating and might have left several seconds of distance, just as all of us are taught in driver’s education. Unfortunately, while driving along, the car in front suddenly slams on its brakes without any warning and for no apparent reason. Unsurprisingly, the car travelling behind does not have sufficient time to brake, so it barrels into the car in front of it.
Who is at fault for this rear-end collision? In this situation, the trailing vehicle is probably not at fault for the collision even if it struck the car. The car in front is much more likely at fault for the accident because the driver behaved in a reckless and dangerous manner by immediately hitting the brakes.
Another simple example involves Vehicle A that has been T-boned at an intersection by Vehicle B. Based on the damage, you can see that one vehicle clearly struck another. But is that the fault of Vehicle B? In this case, everything depends on who had the right of way. If Vehicle A ran a red light, then it is probably at fault for the accident even if it suffered a side impact. Conversely, the driver of Vehicle B might be at fault if he ran a red light and struck Vehicle A in the side.
As these examples show, sometimes a vehicle can strike another vehicle and not be at fault. What a jury must ultimately determine is whose actions are responsible for the collision and whether the actions the driver took were reasonable. Simply looking at the damage to your vehicle does not 100% always give you answers to these questions.
What Other Information You Need to Determine Fault
Looking at the damage to your vehicle is an important piece of the puzzle, but it is not the only piece. Your car accident attorney will also need to carefully assess other information to determine which driver’s careless or reckless conduct caused the car accident, such as:
- Witness testimony. Passengers, drivers, and anyone else who saw the crash can offer important testimony about what happened. For example, a passenger might admit that a driver did not put on a turn signal or that a driver was speeding. These actions can make a driver responsible for a collision.
- Debris on the road. Sometimes, how debris is littered across the road can contain important clues about who is at fault. Skid marks are also critical information.
- Medical records. Medical records can also help prove point of impact. A person who suffered whiplash probably was struck from behind, whereas a passenger who suffered a broken right arm might have been hit from the right.
- Surveillance video. Sometimes video captures the accident and can show what happened.
- Cell phone records. These records might show that a motorist was talking on the phone or sending a text message when the accident occurred—negligent conduct that can make them liable for the crash.
Each case is unique, and the evidence you need to prove fault will differ by the circumstances. This is why it is vital that you meet with a seasoned Las Vegas car accident attorney to review your case. Your lawyer will know what other evidence you need to complete the puzzle of who is legally liable for the collision.
Because your attorney will need to look at your vehicle, it is critical that you avoid having your car fixed immediately after your crash. Your attorney cannot see the damage once the vehicle is repaired.
To help document the crash, remember to call the police to the scene of the accident. An officer can provide helpful information in a police report which you can introduce later into evidence. An officer should also speak to all drivers involved in the crash and get their stories about what happened.
You should also take evidence at the scene of the accident. For example, you should take pictures of:
- Damage to the other vehicle. Walk around and take pictures from every side. If necessary, zoom in so that you capture detail. Remember that the other driver might have his vehicle repaired before you lawyer can look at it, so getting pictures is vital.
- Skid marks or debris in the road.
- Anything that might have contributed to your collision, such as obscured or missing stop signs, malfunctioning stop lights, vehicles parked in the road, etc.
Be safe, and take more pictures than you might need, rather than less. If you are too injured to move, ask someone else to take these pictures.
You can also take pictures of your injuries soon after the accident. Bruising is very dramatic and can illustrate where on your body you suffered a traumatic impact which, in turn, helps establish which side of the vehicle was hit.
Your Right to an Inspection
As mentioned above, the other driver might quickly have their vehicle repaired, which means any damage evidence will be lost. However, not all motorists will quickly fix their vehicles. Many might put off repairs for weeks or months, giving you time to inspect the vehicle.
Nevada law allows you to request an inspection using Nevada Rule of Civil Procedure 34. You must file this request in court, which means you need a lawsuit already filed on record. If you want to inspect the other vehicle, move quickly. Hire an attorney to file a lawsuit for compensation and then request an inspection pursuant to this rule.
Because modeling how an accident unfolds is complicated, many cases require the help of an accident reconstruction expert. These people can gather all the available evidence and reconstruct the seconds before a collision. They can also explain their findings to a judge or jury, often using visual aids such as a 3-D model or a computer simulation.
Accident reconstruction experts help bring accidents alive for people who were not there to witness it. An accident reconstruction expert is not necessary in every case. Indeed, many car accident cases are pretty straightforward and do not require any expert help at all. But in certain situations, a reconstruction expert can make the difference between winning a case and losing one.
One of the advantages of working with an established Las Vegas firm like Naqvi Injury Law is that we have access to credible expert witnesses. An expert witness should not only have sterling educational credentials but must also be able to explain complicated concepts to a jury in a simple manner. At Naqvi, we have worked with many accident reconstruction experts and know how to find one who will be a good fit for your case.
The Naqvi Injury Law Difference
Every car accident provides unique challenges that can make receiving compensation difficult. That is why you need the help of an experienced lawyer.
At Naqvi Injury Law, we have an impressive track record of success. Some of our results include:
- A $2.9 million settlement in a motor vehicle accident for a client who was rear-ended by a large truck.
- A $2.5 million settlement for a client who suffered neck and back injuries when struck by a drunk driver.
- A $1.425 million settlement for a client who was rear-ended by an intoxicated driver.
- A $970,000 award for a client T-boned at an intersection, suffering neck and back injuries.
These are only some of the many favorable awards we have obtained. Although every case is different—and we cannot guarantee any result—we believe these results testify to our experience and knowledge at proving fault in a car accident.
Contact Naqvi Injury Law Today
If you have been struck by a driver, you should immediately begin thinking about how to receive compensation. True, you might be in a lot of pain and need to focus on getting well. But that is all the more reason to contact a Las Vegas car accident attorney as soon as possible.
At Naqvi Injury Law, we are happy to offer a free consultation to all potential clients. You can come in and meet with one of our attorneys who will ask you questions about your case or we can talk over the phone. We can also answer any questions you might have.
If we think your case has merit, and you agree to hire us, we can swing immediately into action, preserving evidence and building your case for compensation. But we need to hear from you first. Please call to schedule your free initial consultation.