It wasn’t my fault
How do you establish who is to blame following a road traffic accident?
The immediate aftermath of an accident, particularly when you have been injured causes an extreme of stress and emotional upset. In such moments of tension you might not be thinking clearly and as a consequence do not gather evidence that will assist your claim later on should the other driver deny blame.
Where there is a dispute upon which driver was responsible for an accident all evidence is looked at “in the cold light of day.” What actually happened at the scene and what you can prove happened at the scene are two entirely different things. For example the other driver might apologise and admit blame, but absent any other witness how do you prove they said this? As a Claimant the onus is upon you to prove, on the balance of probabilities that the other driver was negligent. If there is any doubt about who was to blame, then the Court will resolve that doubt in the opponents favour and must dismiss the case.
In many accident scenarios who is to blame can be readily established. A rear end shunt will almost always mean the driver behind was to blame since you have to keep a reasonable distance behind the vehicle in front to allow you to stop. Similarly failing to give way at a junction.
In other types of accidents it is not always easy to establish who was responsible. There may be a dispute over the facts eg both drivers saying the other changed lanes. In such cases, how exactly do you prove the other driver was responsible?
If the issue of blame cannot be resolved, then ultimately it is a matter for a Judge sitting in Court to say having heard all of the evidence who was to blame. There is no exhaustive list of evidence that can be adduced, but the starting point is witness evidence.
In civil cases evidence is given in Court by means of a written witness statement. Any “live evidence” ie of the witness giving evidence in the witness box is then limited to cross examination to “clarify” their written statements. If the witness evidence of each driver is all a judge has to go on, then they will have to decide which witness they believe. Unless the other driver proves a hopeless witness then the case is likely to be lost since the Claimant has to prove their case.
Independent witness evidence is therefore invaluable in many cases to resolve matters in the Claimants favour. This is why it is crucial in the aftermath of an accident to obtain the names and contact details of all persons who may have seen the accident happen.
To scotch a deeply ingrained myth – anyone can be a witness, even passengers in your own car. An opponent might argue that they are partisan, but in practical terms if you have two people saying one thing and another saying something else, then a judge is likely to side with the two rather than the one.
Often the site of damage to each of the vehicles, and/or the vehicles locations at the point of impact will lead to an inference one driver was more likely to blame than the other. Photographs taken at the scene and photographs taken of the damaged vehicles are therefore useful pieces of evidence. Assessors reports, repair invoices and estimates for the damaged vehicles can sometimes assist as these can show the point of impact between the vehicles.
If the accident is reported to the police, then a detailed collision report is normally created. This can be obtained by paying a fee. What you get from the police is variable in quality. Sometimes this will merely record basic information such as the vehicles and parties involved. At the other extreme, in very serious accidents the police may have detailed witness statements from both drivers, any witnesses (including passengers), photographs at the scene, a locus plan and photographs , and perhaps a reconstruction report.
Police reports are receivable in evidence without the officers having to attend any Civil Court hearing. If the report contains a statement from the other driver accepting blame or making adverse comments about how the accident happened this is very compelling evidence.
Locus plan and photographs
A plan of the road layout accompanied by photographs showing how each vehicle would have travelled can assist by demonstrating how an accident is likely to occur. On complex roadways satellite imagery can be used.
Cameras are everywhere in this country. Many bus operators have cctv installed on all of their buses and those systems film the whole of the interior and exterior of the bus. Other cameras can be static such as traffic control cameras operated by the local authorities or privately operated cctv attached to a business or residence. Cctv cameras in private cars are also growing in popularity. Such evidence is in many cases vital. However, knowing there is cctv and obtaining the footage are two separate things. Firstly, cctv is only stored for a limited period of time. Secondly, knowing who is responsible for and can provide the cctv footage is not always possible to ascertain and thirdly, even approaching who has the cctv footage does not mean they will supply a copy.
Expert witness and reconstruction reports
In some cases where there are complex facts or an unusual road layout evidence from an expert in motor vehicle accident reconstruction may be necessary. These experts would give the Court an opinion on the factors involved in a collision to demonstrate that the other driver was at fault. The cost of such a report is prohibitively expensive, costing many thousands of pounds and would only therefore be contemplated with very high value cases.
Here at Optimal Claim, we are committed to resolving your claim in your favour. We are experienced at handling all types of road traffic accidents and know what factors will be taken into account when resolving issues of blame and the amount of compensation you can recover. Because we speak your language we know how best to present your case and get you the right money.
Claiming through Optimal Claim carries a genuine “no-win, no-fee” guarantee. Should you lose your claim then we do not charge. Moreover, we are more than happy to discuss prospective cases with you free of charge and without any obligation.