Sometimes the fault in an accident is clear-cut, but sometimes it's extremely complex. No matter the complexity, it's essential to establish proper fault as it will make or break an accident settlement claim. If fault is wrongly established, it could leave the victim in a worse situation – possibly even hindering his or her recovery entirely. In this article, we'll discuss the importance of getting liability right after an accident and how to prove you weren't negligent.
If you've been in an accident where fault is contested, don't wait any longer to contact a personal injury lawyer. Your recovery could be on the line. To schedule a free initial case review and consultation, call or text our injury lawyers at (602) 345-1818 if you're in Arizona or 505-386-2807 if you're in New Mexico. Alternatively, you may submit the contact form on this page, and we will reach out to you to set up your free case review.
The Importance of Proving Fault
Arizona and New Mexico are at-fault states. This means that fault in an accident equals liability. If a party is found liable for the accident, he or she will be responsible for the damages sustained, including the injured party's medical bills, lost income, property repair or replacement costs, etc.
Establishing liability comes down to proving that a party was negligent and that his or her negligence caused injuries and damages to another person. The following will be determined to prove which party will be on the hook to pay the accident-related costs:
- Was there a duty of care that existed between the parties involved in the accident and did one or both parties breach that duty? In the case of a car accident, every driver on the road has a duty of care to act in a reasonable manner to avoid conduct that may cause accidents.
- Did the parties involved in the accident share liability? If so, their legal compensation for their personal injuries may be reduced by an amount equal to how much each contributed to their own accident. This is known as Comparative Negligence; both Arizona and New Mexico recognize and adhere to this legal theory.
- Were there any responsible parties who may not have been present at the time of the accident? Depending on the facts of the case, there may be additional liable parties, such as employers, manufacturers, government entities, etc.
To read more about liability in a personal injury case, check out some of our blogs on the topic:
- When an Improperly Loaded Truck Causes an Accident
- In an Accident on a City Bus? Here's What to Know
- Proving Fault After a Motorcycle Accident
- What You Should Know About Work Zones and Liability
- When You Are in an Uber or Lyft Accident
Collecting the Right Evidence
Establishing rightful fault can be an important step in maximizing accident victim settlements. Proving rightful fault and maximizing settlement amounts are directly correlated to the evidence you have. Your accident lawyer will identify the types of evidence you need for the specific circumstances surrounding your case. You can get a jump start on this process by collecting evidence and documentation from the beginning. Some forms of evidence that can help your case include:
- Photographs of the accident scene, injuries, and property damage
- The official police report
- Eyewitness reports
- Medical reports
- Expert witness reports
- Reconstructed accident scenes
- Traffic video and public camera footage
- Black box data in the case of semi-truck accidents
Some advanced forms of evidence can be helpful in cases with contested liability. We'll discuss this evidence below.
Utilizing Accident Forensics
In some cases, your lawyer may decide to reconstruct the accident with accident forensics. Car accident forensics can provide an in-depth analysis of the accident and answer the question of what really happened. An investigator will compile relevant evidence to reconstruct the accident scene to place fault where it belongs. Accident forensics may include some of the following investigative, scientific measures:
- Analyzing accident physics - They'll analyze momentum and other forms of energy to understand exactly how the vehicles crashed.
- Utilizing time and distance determinations - When the parties each hit their brakes and other relevant information can provide a lot of information about who displayed negligence in their reaction times.
- Reviewing physical evidence - Physical evidence in an accident can give color to the sequence of events; things like skid marks and damage to the grass, road signs, guardrails, etc can fill in needed information to establish proper fault.
- Analyzing photographic evidence - Photographic evidence can assist similarly. This may include both photos and video evidence to see in real-time the events that took place before, during, and after the accident.
- Using specific calculations and measurements - Once an investigator has reviewed all of the evidence available to them, they'll produce specific, mathematical, and scientific data to reveal the details of an accident and expose liability.
Other forms of evidence that can help paint a true picture of events to establish one party or the other's story are puddles of gasoline or blood on the scene, debris from the crash (car parts, tires, glass, etc), evidence confirming drug or alcohol usage, or private property that may have flown from the vehicles on impact.
Don't Get Blamed For the Accident
An accident lawyer can help you prove proper fault. This may either get you entirely off the hook for liability or lower your shared fault percentage. In either of these cases, having a lawyer on your side may certainly help you maximize your accident settlement and your chances of recovery. To speak with one of our accident lawyers, call or text (602) 345-1818 if you're in Arizona or 505-386-2807 if you're in New Mexico. You may also fill out our online contact form here.
Note that the information in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to be taken as legal advice. To get specific legal advice regarding your situation, call or text Impact Legal to set up your case review today.
We are located in Arizona and New Mexico. We serve clients in Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale, Peoria, Maricopa, and the entire state of Arizona. We also serve clients in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Roswell, Farmington, Los Alamos, Las Cruces, and the entire state of New Mexico.