When it comes to establishing car accident fault, massive dents in the hood, broken axles, or twisted frames may be significant in shedding light as to the circumstances that led up to the crash.
Determining fault by location of damage can help you in your claim for compensation. Along with speed, weather, toxicology reports, tire marks, and the backgrounds of drivers, the location of damage can be integral to your case.
At Russell & Lazarus APC, we can walk you through the legal process and help you recover compensation for your injuries. Contact us today to learn more about how an Orange County car accident lawyer can help.
How Vehicle Damage Can Tell a Story
The location of impact and vehicle damage can speak volumes about how the car accident occurred. Investigators and accident re-constructionists use a vehicle’s damage to trail back to where the accident may have begun.
There must be force for any two objects like vehicles to collide. Those who investigate crashes know that certain speeds and the direction a vehicle travels are likely to result in certain types of damage. In some cases, the damage gives the full picture of what caused the collision. Sometimes, it is not that simple. However, damage can help eliminate some causes for the accident. This may not seem helpful, but it is a good start. After certain causes are ruled out, other investigative tools and evidence may be used to conclude the cause and the party or parties at fault.
For example, let’s say someone rear-ended you. While your vehicle would have damage in the back, the other driver would have damage at the front of their vehicle. In most instances, the rear-ending driver is at fault.
However, let’s say your car has damage on your left passenger side and the other car has damage at the front of their care. Determining fault by location of damage would be difficult in this case. While chances are the damage occurred as you were turning left and the other car hit you, that still doesn’t paint a complete picture. Who had the right of way? Did someone run a red light? That’s why the location of damage is simply one piece of the entire puzzle.
Preserve Evidence of the Damage
Whether the location of vehicle damage ends up being important or not, it is best to assume that it matters. Preserve the evidence by taking these steps:
- Call Police to the Scene: If the accident resulted in death or injuries, even minor ones, California law requires you to file a written report about the accident with police or the state highway patrol. This is not required if the police come to the scene because the responding officer will write a report. Additionally, if a crash resulted in property damage of more than $750, it must be reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days of the incident.
- Take Pictures of the Damage of Both Vehicles: When taking pictures of both vehicles, be sure to get views from many different angles. Make sure some pictures include the other driver’s license plate number. If the other driver is uncooperative and unwilling to provide contact information, police will be able to locate the owner of the vehicle with the plate number. Also, take pictures of any vehicle debris, property damage, weather conditions, skid marks, or anything else relevant at the scene. Skid marks, for example, indicate a vehicle slid or spun on the roadway’s surface.
- Get Contact Information of Witnesses: Accident witnesses can make or break a case. Many times, liability comes down to one driver’s word over another. Witnesses can clear up any inconsistencies.
Mechanics and Accident Reconstructionists Can Help Fill in the Missing Pieces
In addition to photos, other alternative methods, like talking to experts, can assist in determining fault by location of damage to a vehicle. Mechanics and auto body technicians understand car damage, what causes it, and likely have seen the results of car accidents. Mechanics can examine vehicles, give comprehensive lists of repairs, and estimate the costs. This also can provide insight into what caused the accident.
When you work with attorneys, they may turn to accident reconstructionists for their expertise. They use physics and technology to recreate accidents. A reconstructionist conducts an in-depth analysis of the scene, consults with witnesses, and considers contributing factors, like:
- Steering angles
- Use of lights
- Engine rpm (rotations per minute)
- Use of cruise control
Accident re-constructionists can be called as expert witnesses in court, which is why attorneys look to them for their expertise.