Additional evidence and applicable legal doctrines often change the fault determination in a car accident. 

Emergency responders usually base fault determinations only on the evidence immediately available at the scene. Frequently, accident reconstruction professionals assist in the preparation of accident reports in these cases. Some of the more prominent legal doctrines in car wreck cases are outlined below.

Fault is a preliminary determination, while liability is a final determination – the only determination that matters in a car accident case. A New York personal injury attorney knows how to reverse this preliminary determination, using additional evidence and applicable legal doctrines. So, even if an insurance adjuster or emergency responder said you were at fault for a crash, you may be entitled to compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Additional Evidence

The initial evidence in a car accident case, which usually determines fault, includes the police accident report, medical bills, and witness statements. 

Fatal collision reports are almost always incomplete and/or inaccurate. The reporting officer relies mostly, or even entirely, on the surviving driver’s version of events which can be selective at best.

Medical bills often require additional evidence as well. Frequently, these records only contain clinical information. A New York personal injury attorney usually works with an independent doctor who reviews these records and translates the Medspeak into English. Sometimes, this doctor also personally examines the victim.

Witness statements can be incomplete as well. Emergency responders only interview witnesses who voluntarily come forward at the scene. Attorneys, often working with private investigators, locate additional witnesses and listen to their accounts. Many times, these accounts radically change the initial fault determination.

Electronic evidence, usually from a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder, is important as well. EDR information can either confirm or refute the initial evidence by measuring and recording operational information like brake application and steering angle.

Legal Doctrines

Pedestrian injury claims often involve the emergency defense. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) are not liable for damages if they encounter a sudden and unexpected emergency. However, this designation usually doesn’t apply to jaywalking pedestrians because they are everyday hazards. The duty of care requires drivers to anticipate and avoid these hazards.

The last clear chance defense often applies in rear-end or wrong-way wrecks. The basis of this defense is that the duty of care requires all drivers to avoid all accidents if they can, regardless of what other drivers do or don’t do.

Assume Stan mistakes an off-ramp for an on-ramp and drives on the wrong side of the road. If Stan hits Ollie, who was driving on the correct side of the road, Ollie may be liable for damages even though he did nothing wrong. In this instance, Ollie probably had the last clear chance to avoid the wreck and probably could have swerved out of Stan’s way.

If Stan was driving recklessly on the wrong side of the road, however, he would be legally responsible for damages since there is probably no way Ollie could have avoided a wreck.

Given these and other defenses, like comparative fault, you won’t know how much compensation you may be entitled to until an attorney reviews your case. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.