How do you figure out who is at fault for a car accident? Why are accident investigations important for filing an insurance claim or lawsuit, especially with Florida’s no fault state status? The following information highlights how car accident investigations are conducted. It also shows how they are used to determine liability. Please keep in mind that there are many factors when investigating a car accident. This is not an exhaustive or complete list of these factors.
There are three groups of people who examine car accidents. They are law enforcement officers, insurance company agents, and independent accident investigators. Each has its own purpose.
- Police officers investigate car accidents for indications of criminal activity.
- Insurance company agents or adjusters look for who caused the accident and are responsible for damages.
- Independent accident investigators look for negligence to recover compensatory damages.
Examining the Scene of the Accident
Police officers are usually the first to arrive at the scene. Obviously, their priority is getting medical help for the injured. Once this is done, officers have the chance to take down preliminary information that might include:
- The exact location of the accident
- Date and time
- Weather and road conditions
- Number of injured people and/or fatalities
- Presence of alcohol, drugs, or suspected drug or alcohol use
Gathering and Preserving Evidence
It is important to inspect the accident scene for evidence before it is compromised by weather, time, or human activity. Most car accident investigators take photos of the scene. They might also make sketches or use chalk to designate an area that needs further inspection.
Some types of evidence that a car accident investigator looks for at the accident scene may include:
- Puddles of gasoline, blood, or oil
- Debris such as pieces of glass, fender, shredded or blown tire, and other vehicle parts
- Skid, scrub or gouge marks on the pavement, ground, or stationary objects (a telephone pole, for example)
- Measurements between the point of impact and vehicle resting place after the collision
- Evidence of alcohol or drug use (such as an empty beer can)
- Pieces of private property that were thrown from the car at impact (cell phones or purses, for example)
A skilled car accident investigator will also examine the vehicles involved in the collision. Examining the damaged vehicles may reveal mechanical failure or safety violation that caused the accident.
There are other signs that a car accident investigator looks for when examining the vehicles:
- Their location after the impact
- Damage to all involved vehicles
- The position of turn signal levers
- Broken or missing seat belts
- Functioning headlights and taillights
Investigators Must Be Careful and Objective
Police officers, insurance investigators, and private accident investigators should be careful when examining and collecting evidence. Otherwise, they face legal and professional consequences for tampering, destroying, or improperly gathering evidence. Their investigation will play a significant role in determining criminal and civil actions against those at fault.
Putting the Pieces Together for an Accurate Recreation
Finding out what happened in a car accident is like fitting jigsaw puzzle pieces together. Other pieces of information must be included to get the full picture. These include:
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Severity and type of injuries
- Environmental conditions
- Relevant laws and traffic guidelines
The last step of a car accident investigation is usually a reconstruction. Accident reconstructions combine physics and mathematics to determine the sequence of events that led to the collision. They use measurements and calculations such as the manufacturer’s weight of the car, skid marks, and other data.
An accident reconstruction helps show key elements in a car accident, including:
- Speed of vehicles
- Relative positions throughout the accident
- The direction of travel both before and after impact
- Point of impact (there may be more than one if it is a multi-vehicle accident)
- Road surface and conditions
Today’s accident investigators may use accident reconstruction software programs such as Virtual Crash. Others might sketch the accident by hand. Either way, a car accident investigator has a responsibility to be as exact and objective as possible.
Why It Is Important to Determine Liability
In addition to figuring out if there are any criminal charges or illegal activity, a car accident investigation can also name who is at fault. If you were injured in a car accident that was someone else’s fault, you may have physical, mental, or financial damages. You might be entitled to compensation because of the driver’s negligence. You have the right to seek potential compensation regardless of any criminal charges.
Recovering Compensation From a Negligent Driver
It is important to understand how car accident investigations work because they play a crucial role in recovering potential compensation. For example, if an investigator from our law firm proves that your injuries are consistent with findings from the accident scene, this strengthens your claim. As Fort Lauderdale accident lawyers, the Law Offices of Wolf & Pravato will investigate and recreate as necessary to recover compensation that you might be entitled to receive.
Car Accidents in South Florida Are Plentiful
Unfortunately, South Florida offers plenty of work for car accident investigators. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 40,782 car accidents in Broward County in 2018. There were more than 63,500 accidents in Miami-Dade County during that same time.
If you were involved in a car accident, you could qualify for compensation for expenses such as medical bills, car repair, and lost pay. For a free consultation, call the Law Offices of Wolf & Pravato at (954) 633-8270 or click here.