Proving who was at fault after an auto accident is extremely important, especially if the injured victims want to file compensation claims. That’s because Alabama has a legal doctrine in place called contributory negligence, which means that people who are even one percent at fault for their own accidents can’t recover a single penny in damages!
Because of the harshness of that doctrine, it’s vital that fault is clearly and accurately determined and attributed. And in most cases, fault in auto accidents boils down to drivers acting negligently when they’re behind the wheel and not exercising their “duty of care”—which is their responsibility to keep themselves and others safe.
As Montgomery auto accident lawyers, it’s our job to find evidence that other drivers were negligent when they injured our clients, and here’s how we do it.
One of the first things we do is look at the accident report. This report is created by the police officer who is dispatched to the scene when someone calls 911 after a crash. You are legally required to do so after a crash in Alabama when there are injuries involved. When the police arrive at the scene of a crash, they try to piece together what happened, which includes questioning both drivers, passengers, and witnesses.
They also may take pictures of the crash scene, note damage to involved vehicles, the weather at the time of the crash if it may have contributed, and who/what they think is at fault. It’s important to note that because police reports typically include both facts and opinions, they aren’t always 100% accurate or foolproof. And because police officers may be in danger of being hit by passing vehicles at an accident scene, they can’t always be 100% thorough when investigating a crash.
When we look at an accident report that places fault on our clients, we look for inconsistencies, especially if we have other evidence. In some cases, we can remove fault from our clients and instead assign it to the other drivers based on new information or evidence that comes to light after the officer made their report.
Although memories are fallible, especially among people who were involved in crashes, speaking to enough people with connections to a crash can help paint a clearer picture of what happened. If our client’s description of their crash matches the descriptions provided by witnesses, but those descriptions don’t match what’s in the police report or what the other driver says, we know we need to do more digging to find out the truth.
Witness statements can help us determine if a driver was using their cell phone, looking away from the road, swerving, speeding, or engaging in any other negligent or dangerous behavior just before the crash. Sometimes, these behaviors aren’t noted in accident reports, as police may have no way of knowing they happened if there’s no evidence at the crash scene.
When accidents occur on major highways, interstates, or in urban areas in Alabama, there’s a good chance they are captured on camera by live traffic or surveillance cameras. Add in the fact that many drivers use dashcams, and we often have video footage to work with when determining fault and negligence. And because this footage may only be found after an accident report has already been completed and filed, our findings may conflict with the findings of the responding police officer.
Video footage can show us many signs of negligence, including following too closely, failing to stop at a stop sign, running a red light, failure to hold a lane, speeding, and more. In addition to helping us find when and how the other drivers were negligent, video footage of crashes can also help us prove our clients weren’t at fault, which means they can remain eligible for compensation for their damages.
Most other states allow drivers who are partially responsible for their crashes to get compensation, but not Alabama. Even the tiniest percentage of fault in Alabama bars you from recovering any compensation. That’s why it’s extremely important to have a lawyer on your side right away if you plan on filing a personal injury claim.
Our work for our clients is two-fold—proving the drivers who injured them were negligent in the moments leading up to their crashes, and proving our clients don’t share any of the blame for their accidents.
Contact Vance Law Firm today for a free consultation. Our Montgomery auto accident lawyers are here to help you get the money you’re owed for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.