Auto accidents can be life-changing events in more ways than one. In addition to devastating physical injuries and financial challenges, car crashes may lead to lawsuits and/or criminal charges. Whether you're an injured party seeking compensation or a defendant in an auto accident case, you need to conduct your side of the legal proceedings as effectively as possible. Here are three critical questions that you and your auto accident attorney will need to address as soon as the dust has settled on the accident site.
1. Who Saw the Accident?
Even in this age of traffic surveillance cameras and dashboard video recordings, eyewitnesses play a key role in helping the authorities sort out exactly what happened in an auto accident. The fact that witnesses are typically in a position to offer unbiased accounts of the event lends objectivity and authenticity to their statements. Of course, you may need to tend to your own injuries or calm down from the chaos and trauma of the accident before you start asking the witnesses about what they saw. Even so, you need to get their contact information so your auto accident attorney can interview them properly. You'll want to ask your witnesses questions such as the following:
Of course, your opposition will also be collecting witness data to use in their side of the case. But with any luck, your auto accident attorney will be able to point out inconsistencies, omissions, or inaccuracies in that data, thus strengthening your side of the argument.
2. How Much Supporting Evidence Can You Present?
As valuable as witness testimony may be, it isn't the only evidence you need to offer in support of your case. One of the first things you should do following an auto accident is to collect as much visual evidence as you can. Most of today's mobile phones can record video in sufficient detail to capture the moment, from the direction of skid marks and the weather conditions at the time to car damage and real-time reactions from witnesses. (Some drivers and cyclists even equip their vehicles with dashboard video cameras, which can capture an accident at the moment of impact.) These same phones can also capture detailed photo imagery.
Keep in mind that it's all too easy to leave the house without your phone, which could leave you without a means of recording an auto accident's aftermath. Hedge your bets by keeping small, cheap camera in your glove compartment at all times.
3. Who's Liable — and to What Extent?
Liability in an auto accident case is determined by a great many factors, starting with the behavior of the respective drivers. For instance, were you maintaining an adequate distance behind the other driver involved in your auto accident? Were you chatting on your phone, toying with the radio, or refereeing a backseat battle among your children at the time of the accident? If you were indeed on the phone, were you using a hands-free device (a legal requirement in some states)? For better or worse, you need to be honest with your auto accident attorney about how defensively you were driving when the accident occurred. You also need to make use of any available evidence that the other party failed to drive defensively.
State laws also have a major say in assigning auto accident liability. The variations in these laws have a particularly large impact on your ability to pursue (or avoid) damage claims. Some states adopt the rule of contributory negligence, meaning that if your behavior contributed to the accident in any way, you can't claim damages. Other states evaluate liability in terms of comparative negligence. Under these rules, each participant in the accident may share varying percentages of liability. Other states may throw out your case if you're judged to be more than 50 percent at fault. The better you understand your state auto liability laws, the more wisely you can pursue or defend your case.
These three questions represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to collecting your facts, figuring your claim, and preparing your legal strategy in an auto accident case. Expert counseling is a must if you hope to succeed — so contact your local provider of auto accident attorney services and schedule a consultation!
Being injured in a car accident is never easy. You may find yourself struggling to do better, all while wondering what you can do to streamline your personal situation. However, when you make the decision to work with an attorney, things become a lot easier in the long run. From finding easier ways to move forward to understanding how to make the right steps towards getting the settlement you need, you can drastically improve your ability to move on after a car accident if you make a single call. Check out this website to learn how to identify a lawyer who can help you.