How Can You Tell Who Hit Who in a Car Accident?

April 18, 2021 | By Nicolette R. Nicoletti
How Can You Tell Who Hit Who in a Car Accident?

No matter who is at fault, car accidents can lead to extremely serious and debilitating injuries for victims. Crash injuries can change a person’s life, and might be catastrophic with permanent consequences. When a car accident victim suffers injuries this serious, he or she might need to undergo various medical procedures, medical treatment, and physical therapy—all of which can be expensive, painful, and extremely disruptive.

Car crashes can also happen in many different ways. Some examples of common causes of accidents include speeding, distracted driving, failing to yield, or driving on the wrong side of the road. In addition, some car accidents are from intoxicated driving, where a driver operates his or her motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Several different types of car accidents can lead to serious injuries, including head-on motor vehicle collisions, T-bone accidents, and rear-end accidents. Some of the most dangerous crashes happen at intersections or on the highway.

In some cases, it can be difficult to tell exactly who hit whom in a car crash. In some jurisdictions, when a motor vehicle driver causes his or her vehicle to collide with the rear of another vehicle, the law presumes that the rear driver is almost always at fault. The laws of many jurisdictions also presume that a driver who is preparing to turn left on a solid green light must always yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic. If the turning driver fails to do so and an accident occurs, then he or she may be liable.

At other times, however, the cause of a car accident is not clear-cut, and it can be difficult to determine which driver or drivers were at fault for the accident. When that happens, the accident victim who suffered injuries in the accident has several different options. First and foremost, the accident victim should speak with an experienced car accident lawyer to assist him or her throughout the car accident case.

An accident victim’s lawyer could speak to eyewitnesses who observed the car accident firsthand. The attorney can also obtain a copy of any police report that an officer prepared following the car accident. If there is a dispute as to which driver had a red or green light at a traffic intersection collision, the accident victim’s attorney could request copies of the traffic light sequencing report or the intersection’s recorded camera footage. Finally, the accident victim’s lawyer could retain an expert, such as an accident reconstructionist, to piece together exactly how the car accident occurred.

An experienced car accident attorney near you can assist you with all aspects of your legal claim, including investigating the cause of your accident. If the at-fault driver’s insurance company accepts fault or liability for the accident, your attorney will work to ensure that you obtain the compensation to which you are entitled. If the insurance company does not accept fault for the accident, your lawyer may take your case to court in pursuit of the compensation you deserve.

Speak to Eyewitnesses Who Saw the Car Accident Firsthand

Eyewitnesses who actually saw what took place at the scene of the accident can be extremely helpful when it comes to piecing together exactly how the collision occurred. One of the best ways to go about determining who caused a motor vehicle collision is to speak with these eyewitnesses who were present at the scene. Of course, you should only approach witnesses if you are uninjured and it is safe to do so.

An eyewitness, for example, might provide information that indicates that another driver was speeding, swerving in and out of traffic, or operating a vehicle carelessly or erratically. Moreover, an eyewitness might have actually seen one motor vehicle collide with another vehicle at a traffic intersection or somewhere else on the road.

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, speak with any eyewitnesses to the scene and try to obtain their names and contact information if possible. That way, if a dispute as to fault or liability arises later, your attorney could contact the eyewitnesses who were present at your accident. Moreover, if the matter has to be resolved at a jury trial, the eyewitness could be subpoenaed to testify live in court about his or her observations at the time of the accident.

Review the Police Report that the Responding Police Officer Prepared Following the Collision

In many instances following a motor vehicle crash, a police officer will respond to the scene. He or she will assist with obtaining the involved individuals’ names, contact information, and insurance information. The police officer might also prepare an accident report. The accident report can be extremely helpful when it comes to establishing liability for the crash. Although the police officer might not have been an eyewitness to the collision, he or she can assess what likely happened based upon his or her observations at the scene and prior experiences.

An experienced car accident attorney in your jurisdiction can obtain police reports and other investigative reports that were prepared following your accident. In some cases, your lawyer might need to subpoena these records and/or the police officer to testify in court at a jury trial. Police reports and police officer testimony can be extremely important pieces of evidence in cases where a defendant and/or the defendant’s insurance company dispute fault or liability for the car crash.

Work With an Accident Reconstruction Specialist

In some car accident cases, it can be extremely difficult to determine exactly who caused the wreck. In fact, even a responding police officer might have difficulty making this assessment. If this happens to you, your attorney may retain the services of an expert car crash investigator or accident reconstructionist.

An accident reconstructionist can evaluate your case and determine who likely caused the accident. The investigator may reconstruct the accident by looking at photographs or drone footage of the accident scene, speaking with witnesses, and looking at the evidence, such as police reports, traffic cameras in the vicinity, and traffic light sequencing reports.

If you suffered injuries in a car accident, a knowledgeable car accident attorney in your jurisdiction could retain an expert accident reconstructionist on your behalf to shed light on exactly how your car crash happened. If there is a liability on the part of another driver, your attorney could help you pursue the compensation you need for your injuries.

Obtain Video Footage From Traffic Intersection Cameras and Traffic Light Sequencing Reports

Many traffic intersections, especially busy ones, are equipped with traffic cameras that record what occurs at the intersection. If one of those cameras is recording at the time of your accident, it may be necessary to request or subpoena the camera footage. This footage can then be reviewed and used to determine who definitively caused the car crash.

Similarly, the color of the traffic light just before a traffic intersection accident can be used to determine who caused the accident. In that instance, a traffic light sequencing report might become an important piece of evidence in the case. These reports are used to determine the color of a traffic light at a particular point in time, based upon how the intersection traffic lights are set up, the sequence of the lights, and the length of time that each light shows a particular aspect, such as red, yellow, or green.

A knowledgeable car accident attorney in your area could help you obtain the necessary video footage and other evidence that you will need to approve the legal elements of your case and pursue economic recovery for your injuries.

When it comes to proving the legal elements of a car accident claim, the accident victim has the burden of proof. Specifically, the accident victim is responsible for demonstrating that the at-fault driver behaved unreasonably, carelessly, or recklessly under the circumstances. The accident victim must also show that this breach of the duty of care caused the accident, which in turn led to the accident victim’s injuries and other damages. The accident victim can prove these legal elements by introducing the types of evidence mentioned above.

Once fault is determined, and the insurance company for the at-fault driver has accepted liability for the accident, you can file a claim seeking monetary damages.

A settlement demand package that a car accident lawyer sends to the at-fault driver’s insurance company typically includes:

  • A demand letter that sets forth a monetary demand for settlement
  • A copy of the police report and any other investigative report that a police officer prepared following the car collision
  • Copies of the accident victim’s medical records and bills
  • Lost wage documentation and doctor notes that authorized the accident victim to miss work for a certain time
  • Photographs of the property damage sustained to vehicles involved in the collision
  • A victim impact statement that the accident victim prepares and states the overall impact that the accident has had on the victim’s life and well-being

Once the insurance company’s adjuster reviews this documentation, the adjuster might make an offer to resolve the case by way of a settlement. However, to get a fair and reasonable offer that truly compensates the accident victim for the fair value of his or her injuries, negotiations between the adjuster and the accident victim’s attorney will likely need to take place.

As a victim, you should be aware of the fact that insurance companies are out to make money and will do everything they can to settle your case for as little as possible. Some of the things they may do include making a lowball initial offer, pressuring you to make a recorded statement, monitoring your social media, or hiring an investigator to surveil you. Fortunately, by retaining a lawyer, you can protect your rights and maximize the chances that you will get the compensation you deserve.

If the insurance company refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer despite your attorney’s efforts, your lawyer may file a lawsuit on your behalf. Your case could still settle while your court date is pending. If it doesn’t, your lawyer will likely take your case to trial.

Recovering Monetary Compensation and Damages in a Car Accident Case

Assuming that the accident victim establishes fault on the part of another driver, he or she may recover damages for injuries sustained in the accident. The extent of the damages for which an accident victim is eligible depends upon many factors, including the severity of the injuries, the type of accident, the cost of medical treatment, the extent of medical treatment received, and his or her prognosis.

First and foremost, the accident victim could pursue monetary compensation for all medical treatment received that was related to the accident. The accident victim could also seek lost wage compensation if he or she had to miss time from work because of the injuries sustained.

Finally, the accident victim might be eligible to recover noneconomic damages to compensate him or her for the inconvenience, pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, and related damages. If the accident victim can’t use a body part following the accident, such as from a paralysis injury, the accident victim could assert a loss of use claim. Similarly, if the injuries that the accident victim sustained prevent him or her from taking part in once enjoyable activities, the accident victim could bring a claim for loss of enjoyment of life.

A knowledgeable car accident attorney in your area could help you pursue these damages and other monetary compensation for the injuries that you suffered in your car accident.

Nicolette R. Nicoletti Author Image

Nicolette R. Nicoletti

Managing Partner

Nicolette R. Nicoletti is the founder and managing partner of the Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers. She was born and raised in New Port Richey, Florida.  Nicolette attended Genesis Preparatory School and graduated salutatorian of her class.  She then went onto Saint Leo University for her undergraduate education. She graduated magna cum laude from the Honors Program with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.  While at Saint Leo University, Nicolette was President of Pi Sigma Alpha (Political Science Honor Society), Secretary of Alpha Phi Sigma (Criminal Justice Honor Society), and an active member of Delta Epsilon Sigma (National Scholastic Honor Society).

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