When an accident occurs, the first order of business—after making sure everyone is okay—is to determine who or what caused the accident. This is not always a straightforward process, and sometimes people are accused of being in the wrong when they weren't. If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few tactics you can take to defend against having the blame for an accident pinned on you.
Break Out the Driver's Manual
Very few people probably remember all the rules of the road outlined in their respective state's driver's manual. However, it can be very useful to refer back to that book of rules to prove fault. For instance, in New York, you must turn on your signal light a minimum of 100 feet prior to turning or changing lanes. If the person waits until the last second to turn on his or her signal light (or doesn't at all) before merging into your lane and you hit the vehicle, the individual could be found at fault for not following the rules of the road.
Get the Police Report
It's always best to call the police after an accident. The officer will typically write up a report of the incident, and the information it can be used to bolster your defense. These reports typically contain witness statements, descriptions of the scene and whether any citations were issued. Going back to the previous example, if the officer gave the person a ticket for improper lane change, you can use that to show you weren't at fault for the accident (at least not completely).
Become an Unofficial Crime Scene Investigator
The judge's or insurance investigator's job is to piece together the events leading up to the accident, and evaluating physical evidence is one way they achieve this goal. Producing as much evidence as possible that supports your narrative can also help you disprove the accusation that you're at fault. This evidence can take a variety of forms including:
- Pictures taken at the scene by you or the other party
- Photos obtained via red-light cameras
- Video from surrounding security cameras
- Towing records; tow companies often write reports after retrieving vehicles from the scene, which can provide valuable information about the cars and drivers
- Calls to emergency services; these calls are recorded and can also provide good information about the state of affairs at the time of the accident
- Historical information about the area the accident took places (e.g. other accidents that have occurred at a particular intersection due to poor signage)
- Physical evidence from the vehicles such as paint marks that show who hit who and where
- Pictures of skid marks on the ground that can be used to prove the rate a speed a vehicle was going at the time of the accident
All of the information you gather should be combined into a coherent story that makes sense, is believable and counters the other party's assertions. This can be challenging to do, so you'll definitely want to have an attorney assist you with presenting your evidence in the best way possible.
Challenge the Person's Credibility
Many times the dispute boils down to a "he said, she said" type of situation, and the judge or insurance adjuster will make a decision based on who he or she feels is more credible. Sometimes raising reasonable doubts that the other driver is telling the truth will sway the ruling in your favor.
There are several ways you can do this:
- Show the person's current testimony is inconsistent with previous statements made
- Present information about the person's criminal history, particularly those with histories of fraud or theft
- Question whether the person's version of events makes sense based on the evidence
- Show contradictions or exaggerations in the person's narrative of events
- Present evidence of the person's reduced or lack of competency (e.g. the person claims to have heard something but could not have due to decreased hearing ability)
An attorney will employ many of these tactics for you, which is why it's best to contact an accident lawyer as soon as possible after a collision. The attorney, like one at Bailey Law Office Ltd, can help you develop a defense strategy that increases your chances of prevailing in your case.