Sometimes an investigation into the cause of a car accident is cut and dry—for example, if you were rear-ended because the driver behind you was texting.
Sometimes a car accident has multiple causes—for example, when a collision resulted because a speeding driver’s brake pads failed due to lack of maintenance. In this case, a court may find that the accident was caused by multiple, equally applicable factors.
Furthermore, a car accident may also be caused by the comparative negligence of both parties or due to a chain reaction of events. In these cases, the cause of the accident becomes more difficult to determine. When multiple parties and factors are involved, however, identifying the precise cause or causes of the accident can be the key to monetary recovery for your injuries and damages.
Causation and Fault
Although Florida follows a pure comparative fault system, meaning that you are not barred from seeking recovery for your injuries even if you were partially negligent, identifying the cause of your accident may be essential in proving that you were not wholly responsible for your injuries.
As the old saying goes, correlation does not equal causation—so if you were speeding when the accident occurred, that may not have caused the accident. For example, if you were speeding when the driver in the center lane sideswiped you, your speed was likely not the cause of the accident. When you first file insurance claims, however, the insurance adjusters for each party may be quick to apportion fault simply based on your speeding without looking into the accident’s specifics. Just because you may have committed a traffic violation immediately before the accident occurred, however, do not simply accept fault without contacting a Florida car accident lawyer
Using Evidence to Determine Causation
Clear evidence that does not require forensic evaluation is one of the best ways to determine the cause of a car accident. After a Florida car crash, experienced Florida personal injury attorneys will immediately look for and obtain the following evidence, if available:
- Police reports
- Closed-circuit video (or CC-TV) footage from local businesses
- Cell phone videos and photos of the scene
- Witness statements
- Vehicle maintenance records
- Cell phone and social media records
- Vehicle black-box records
- Blood alcohol and drug tests
Although not all of this evidence is always available, a video of the accident from a local convenience store or dash camera may immediately reveal the cause of the accident. Because eyewitness accounts of the accident are often unreliable, it is best to match eyewitness accounts with documentary evidence of the scene to determine cause. For these reasons, and provided you are in a safe location, be sure to take photographs and videos of the exact position of and damage to the vehicles after the accident, any debris left on the road as a result of the accident, tread marks left by either car, nearby traffic signals or traffic control devices, and any markings left on your vehicle as the result of the accident—such as paint from the other car. For example, if the driver of a yellow sedan claims that you sideswiped him and you claim the opposite, a clear line of yellow paint on the driver’s side of your car may help prove that the cause of the accident was the other driver’s negligence.
Forensic Evaluation and Expert Witness Testimony
Occasionally, the physical evidence obtained at the scene of the accident is not enough to determine causation. For example, if there is a T-bone accident at an intersection, without CC-TV footage there may be no way to know which of the drivers actually had the right of way at the time. In this case, an expert witness should analyze the physical evidence at the scene and testify as to what caused the accident. As in all states, Florida permits an expert in her field of study to provide opinion testimony to the court. Under Florida law, “if scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the [jury or judge] in understanding the evidence or in determining a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify about it in the form of an opinion.”
For example, if one vehicle was equipped with “black box” technology, an expert witness can download and analyze the data from the day of the accident to determine the movement of the vehicle at and before the exact time of the crash. In this case, an expert would see if the vehicle had accelerated before impact, which would likely indicate to the judge and jury that the driver was speeding up to make it through a yellow light—and was the likely cause of the accident. In the same vein, if it is clear that the vehicle was maintaining speed at the time of the accident, this may validate a witness’s claim that the vehicle had the right of way.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney Today
It is not always easy to determine the cause of an accident, especially because accidents occur when you are least expecting them and they may have multiple contributing factors. However, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries even if the cause of the accident is not clear. The Dolman Law Group has personal injury lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area who have experience fighting for your right to compensation after a Florida car accident. Contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation about your car accident.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756