After a serious car accident, proving liability is one of the first major steps toward recovering just compensation. Once you determine who is liable, you can file a claim for damages, and you can begin the process of calculating the long-term financial and non-financial costs of your injuries.
Due to the challenges involved in proving liability, it is important that you hire an experienced West Palm Beach car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Proving liability is a complicated process. Even when it seems obvious who was at fault, proving fault still requires evidence and the ability to present that evidence in a persuasive way. If the insurance company is not convinced, it is not going to settle; and, if you cannot convince a judge or jury, you are not going to recover the financial compensation you deserve.
Evidence Used to Prove Liability After a Car Accident
Many different types of evidence can be used to prove liability after a serious car accident. In some cases, individual pieces of evidence (such as a video recording of the accident) can be enough, or almost enough, to establish a claim for damages.
In other cases, it will be necessary to pull together multiple pieces of evidence from several different sources in order to prove liability. Examples of the types of evidence a West Palm Beach motor vehicle accident attorney can use to pursue compensation after a car accident include:
- Forensic Evidence from the Scene of the Accident – Debris from the accident, skid marks, damage to signs and guardrails, and other types of forensic evidence from the scene of the accident can all help prove exactly how an accident occurred.
- Witness Testimony – Anyone who saw the accident happen could potentially be a key witness in your case. Witness testimony can help to corroborate your version of the events and help strengthen your claim for damages.
- Vehicle Inspection Data – After a car accident, it is important to inspect each of the vehicles involved. The location and the extent of the damage to each vehicle can help prove which vehicle caused the collision.
- Video Footage of the Accident – If there is video footage of the accident from a traffic camera, security camera, police camera or cell phone, this footage could be crucial evidence in your case, and your attorney will want to work quickly to try to obtain the footage before it is erased or overwritten.
- Police Report – Police reports can be helpful as well, though they typically are not the “nail in the coffin” that many people think. The police report reflects the responding officer’s interpretation of what happened, and this may or may not be useful when it comes to proving liability.
- Admissions on Social Media – Sometimes, negligent drivers will admit to causing accidents on social media. If the driver who hit you posted about the accident online, his or her social media posts could help prove your claim as well.
- Phone Records, Employment Records and Other Documentary Evidence – Phone records can be used to prove that a driver was distracted, and employment records can be used to prove that a driver lacked experience or had logged too many hours behind the wheel. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, various other forms of documentary evidence may also be available.
- Accident Reconstruction – Once all other available forms of evidence have been collected, your attorney can hire an accident reconstructionist to create a computer simulation of the accident. These simulations can be remarkably accurate, and they can be admitted into evidence in court if necessary.
- Expert Testimony – In addition to testimony from an accident reconstructionist, your attorney may want to engage various other experts to testify regarding liability as well. For example, if it appears that a vehicle or road defect played a role in the collision, your attorney may hire an engineer to testify as to the nature of the defect and how it contributed to causing the accident.
Determining who is Liable Based on the Evidence That is Available
As your West Palm Beach motor vehicle accident attorney works to collect evidence, he or she will also begin the process of determining who (or what company) is liable for your injuries. In some cases, only one party will be liable. In others, multiple parties could share liability for your accident-related losses. Most car accident cases involve claims against one or more of the following parties:
- Another Driver – Most car accident cases involve claims for driver negligence. Distracted driving, drunk driving, tailgating and speeding are all common examples of negligence, although drivers can be held liable for numerous other driving mistakes as well.
- A Driver’s Employer – In some cases, drivers’ employers can be held liable for accident victims’ injuries. Employers can be held vicariously liable for their employees’ negligent acts within the scope of employment (i.e. if a driver was talking on the phone while driving for work), and they can also be held directly liable for hiring unlicensed drivers, providing inadequate driver training and other forms of negligence.
- A Vehicle or Component Manufacturer – If a vehicle defect causes an accident or an accident victim’s injuries, then the manufacturer of the vehicle or the specific component that malfunctioned may be liable. Vehicle defect claims are governed by the law of “strict liability,” which means that proof of negligence is not required.
- A Vehicle Maintenance Shop or Dealership – If a car accident results from faulty repair or maintenance work, then the shop or dealership that performed the work may be liable. In some cases, drivers can also be held liable for driving dangerous vehicles that are in need of maintenance or repair.
- A Government Agency or Contractor – Road defects, construction debris and other road-related issues will often give rise to claims against government agencies and the contractors they hire. Claims against government agencies are subject to special time limits and other restrictions, and this makes it particularly important to hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
- An Establishment that Served the Driver Alcohol – If you were seriously injured or a loved one was killed by a drunk driver, the drunk driver will almost certainly be liable, and the establishment that served him or her prior to the accident may be liable as well. Florida’s “dram shop” law allows establishments to be held liable for overserving in limited circumstances.
Steps Involved in Proving Your Claim for Damages
So, now that we have covered what evidence can be used to prove liability and who can be held liable, how do you recover the financial compensation you deserve? While the specific steps involved in pursuing a car accident claim will vary from case to case, the process generally involves the following 10 steps:
1. Conduct an On-Scene Investigation
The on-scene investigation is crucial. You need to collect all available evidence, and you need to do so as soon as possible. When you contact our firm, West Palm Beach motor vehicle accident attorney Gregg Hollander will promptly dispatch an investigator to the scene of the accident to gather critical evidence in support of your claim for damages.
2. Collect Additional Evidence from Multiple Sources
Based on the information you provide and the results of the on-scene investigation, Mr. Hollander will seek to collect any additional evidence that may be available. As discussed above, this could include things like the police report, video footage, cell phone records and other forms of documentation. While some of this evidence may be relatively straightforward to obtain, other critical pieces of evidence may need to be secured through formal legal means.
3. Talk to Witnesses
If anyone witnessed the accident, Mr. Hollander will want to speak to him or her as soon as possible. When dealing with witnesses, it is important to find out what they know and secure their testimony before their memories start to fade. Witnesses’ impressions of what happened can also be skewed by the insurance companies, and it is important to make sure each available witness provides his or her own unbiased testimony.
4. File an Insurance Claim
If you have a claim against another driver, you will need to file an insurance claim, but you will also need to be very careful when dealing with the insurance companies. As a result, it is generally best to let your attorney handle all insurance company matters on your behalf. At Hollander Law Firm, we have decades of experience dealing with insurance adjusters at all of the major insurance companies, and we can use our experience to make sure your claim is handled appropriately.
5. File Third-Party Claims
If you have a claim against a driver’s employer, vehicle manufacturer, government agency or any other third party, you will need an attorney to file these additional third-party claims on your behalf as well. Even though you may have up to four years to file these claims under Florida’s statute of limitations, filing promptly can be extremely important to making sure you receive the full financial compensation you deserve.
6. Present Evidence of Liability
Once all appropriate claims have been filed, then it is time to put all of that evidence gathering to work. Mr. Hollander will rely on his experience to determine what evidence to present it and how best to present it in order to establish a convincing case for liability. If you have multiple claims against multiple parties, the evidence needed to prove each claim will likely be very different.
7. Present Evidence of Damages
Another key aspect of securing financial compensation after a car accident is presenting evidence of damages. We haven’t touched on the concept of damages much here, but the general rule in Florida is that accident victims who have been seriously injured are entitled to receive compensation for all of their current and future financial and non-financial losses. It is up to you to prove how much you are entitled to recover, and this is another aspect of your case that requires the insights and advice of an experienced West Palm Beach motor vehicle accident attorney.
8. Negotiate for a Favorable Settlement
With evidence of liability and damages in hand, your attorney can work toward negotiating for a favorable settlement. Of course, negotiation is a two-way street, and there is no guarantee that your case will settle. That said, most car accident claims do settle, and Mr. Hollander has an extensive track record of securing favorable settlements for his clients.
9. Prepare for Trial
If it appears that your case is unlikely to settle, or if it appears that more pressure needs to be applied, then Mr. Hollander will begin preparing your case for trial. This is a time-intensive process that involves multiple steps both in and out of court. Oftentimes, when an insurance company sees that an accident victim’s lawyer is serious about going to trial if necessary, this will spur additional negotiations that will lead to a favorable settlement.
10. Go to Trial
If your trial date arrives and your case has not settled, then Mr. Hollander will take your case to court and fight for just compensation. He will use the evidence gathered during the investigative process to present a clear case for liability, and he will rely on his extensive trial experience to present a compelling case to the judge or jury. In some cases, a strong trial strategy can lead to an out-of-court settlement. In others, it will be necessary to go to verdict, and it will be up to the judge or jury to decide how much compensation you deserve.
Have you been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a car accident in South Florida? If so, it is important that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Contact Hollander Law Firm now for a free initial consultation.
Speak with West Palm Beach Car Accident Attorney Gregg Hollander
If you would like to speak with Mr. Hollander about establishing liability for your car accident in the West Palm Beach area, please call (561)-556-7873 or contact our West Palm Beach office near you. At Hollander Law Firm, P.A. we are available 24/7, and you pay nothing unless we win.