Car Accident Determining Fault by Location of Damage
Contributor(s): Keith Gross, Esq.
Many people believe that driver fault in causing an automobile accident can be established by the body damage to the vehicles involved. In fact, collision damage is only one of many factors that need to be assessed in evaluating driver negligence or fault. Most motor vehicle accidents result in body damage to the vehicles involved in the accident. Such collision damage is an essential part of accident reconstruction, and is instructive, though not necessarily determinative, in assessing driver negligence or fault.
For instance, in the so-called rear-end collision, there is typically damage to the lead vehicle’s rear bumper area and to the front bumper area of the car behind it. Such collision damage provides a basis for an attorney to argue that the driver of the second vehicle was not observant or was traveling at an excessive rate of speed for the traffic conditions involved, and caused the accident by failing to brake in time to avoid impacting the car in front of him. Such vehicular damage, however, is not necessarily determinative of fault. The defense in such cases is often that the vehicle in front changed lanes suddenly and without signaling, cutting off the second vehicle, or that the first vehicle stopped short causing or at least contributing to the rear end collision.
As with all motor vehicle accidents, the totality of the evidence associated with the accident should be evaluated by the attorney handling the case to assess driver negligence and any comparative negligence.
Another example of motor vehicle collision damage arises from the so-called broadside or T-bone collision. In such an accident, a driver proceeds into an intersection and is impacted on the side of his car by a vehicle who also entered the intersection, typically at a right angle to the first vehicle. Also, these accidents can occur when the driver of one vehicle turns left and impacts an oncoming vehicle. Typically, T-bone accidents occur when at least one of the drivers violates the traffic laws by failing to yield the right of way. The failure to yield the right of way is often the primary factor in assessing driver fault, though analysis of the collision damage may prove useful. Where the side of one of the vehicles sustains damage to the front fender, or door section, or rear fender area may help an accident reconstructionist assess which vehicle entered the intersection first or the speed of the vehicles.
In both of the rear end and T-bone collision examples, the extent and severity of the collision damage would provide data to an accident reconstruction expert to help him evaluate the speed of the vehicles and their direction of travel both before and after the collision.
The analysis of collision damage is but one of many complex factors is assessing driver fault, including but not limited to the police accident report, eyewitness interviews, any traffic lights or roadway signs controlling traffic flow and speed, the deposition testimony of the parties and vehicle occupants, post-accident photographs of the vehicles both at the scene of the accident and afterwards, accident scene reconstruction measurements and roadway tire marks, accident debris, and the applicable traffic statues and ordinances.
If you have sustained serious injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident, please contact The Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm at 212-869-3500 for a free consultation today. Our attorneys are fully versed and experienced in analyzing motor vehicle accidents, determining which driver is at fault and violated controlling law, and in prosecuting motor vehicle accident cases.
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