Kendall Law Firm Blog

How to Determine Fault in Virginia Car Accidents




  |  posted by Kendall Law Firm   |   Car Accidents

two men determine fault after a car accident

After a car accident, it is not uncommon for drivers and others involved to begin pointing fingers. After all, car crashes are costly, regardless of whether one expects insurance to pay for vehicle repairs, medical care, and other expenses. In some car accidents such as drunk driving accidents, criminal charges are a possibility. In some crashes, the drivers are both partially at fault for the accident.

Determining fault and who should be compensated for losses after a car accident is up to the insurance companies or, ultimately, the court system if an accident claim dispute gets that far. At the Kendall Law Firm, when we have the opportunity to speak to Virginia drivers, we counsel them never to accept blame or to blame anyone else after a car crash. Cooperate with the investigators and simply state the facts in response to the investigating officer’s questions.

If another motorist caused the automobile accident that left you or a loved one of yours injured, your best move is to have an experienced Virginia car accident lawyer investigate the accident and gather evidence to show the other driver caused the crash and represent you in dealings with the insurance companies.

High Standards for Proving Fault in Virginia Car Crashes

The objective of proving someone is at fault, or liable, for a car accident is to make them pay for your losses from the accident. Usually, they pay through auto liability insurance.

In Virginia, you must prove another motorist bears full responsibility for the accident and your injuries to be compensated. Virginia follows a strict legal doctrine known as “pure contributory negligence” to determine whether anyone is eligible for damages after a car crash. The doctrine says that if you contributed in any way to your injuries, then you cannot obtain compensation from another party.

For rear-end collision in Virginia, all drivers are required to maintain a safe distance between their vehicle and the one in front of them so that they can slow or stop quickly if necessary. Because of this, the driver in the rear will almost always be presumed to be the at-fault driver.

Because of Virginia’s very tough standard on negligence in a car accident, you have a dual task in a car accident claim:

  • Provide evidence that demonstrates the other party’s negligence and, therefore, responsibility for the crash and your injuries, and
  • Persuade an insurer or a jury that you did not contribute to the accident.

That is why it is essential to seek guidance from a knowledgeable Virginia car accident injury lawyer after a crash.

What Evidence is Needed to Prove Fault in Car Crashes in Virginia

There are multiple sources of evidence that may demonstrate liability for a car accident. Some cases are straightforward, such as a drunk driving accident with a DUI charge, and test results showing a driver’s high blood-alcohol concentration. In most rear-end accidents, the accident itself is generally solid evidence that the driver in the rear failed to slow down and stop in time to avoid the collision.

In car accidents caused by common driver errors such as speeding, driving distracted, fatigued driving, or aggressive driving, the evidence of fault may not be as clear-cut. Unless someone steps up and admits his or her fault, the insurance adjusters or a Virginia jury may be left to decide the question of fault and whether to award compensation.

Most accident claims are resolved by insurance adjusters who will look at the police accident report and other evidence to assign fault. In this situation, having an experienced automobile accident attorney negotiating on your behalf with the insurance adjusters and presenting evidence to show that you did not bear any blame for the crash can make all the difference.

When we investigate car accidents, the types of evidence we look for may include:

  • Police accident report, which may include diagrams of the crash and other basic information
  • Statements by drivers, passengers and other witnesses
  • Photos of the crash scene
  • Vehicle damage
  • Debris at crash scene
  • Vehicles’ “black box” event data recorder (EDR) readouts
  • Driver cell phone records, which may indicate distracted driving
  • Security or red-light camera footage
  • Social media comments by a driver or passenger regarding an accident
  • Roadway or roadside conditions that may have contributed to the crash
  • Vehicle or vehicle parts recalls or failure reports, which may indicate product liability.

With sufficient evidence, a trained investigator can piece together how a car accident happened. However, some evidence degrades over time, such as skid marks at the crash scene, and some evidence may be destroyed, such as video footage that is recorded over or a totaled vehicle that will be disposed of as scrap eventually.

In a car crash investigation, it is important to act quickly to gather and preserve evidence. You will need a court order to obtain some evidence, such as another driver’s phone records or the content of their vehicle’s data records, which will include such information as speed at time of collision, braking (or lack thereof), steering angle, distance travelled, time on the road, and other information, depending on the model of the vehicle.

In complex cases, a car accident attorney sometimes hires crash reconstruction specialists who apply forensic techniques and principles of engineering and physics to determine how an accident occurred. These firms can provide narrative reports with diagrams and, in court, testimony accompanied by presentations that create quite a convincing show for juries.

An investigation might turn up evidence that might be used against you. It would be your attorney’s task to assess that information and determine how to counter it and keep it from undermining your claim.

Contact Our Virginia Car Accident Law Firm Today

Kendall Personal Injury lawyers have helped thousands of people involved in car accidents across Virginia obtain compensation for their injuries and other losses. We act promptly to investigate car accidents and gather evidence that proves fault and supports solid claims for compensation. In addition to determining who should be held liable for an accident, our car accident lawyer assesses the full extent of our clients’ accident-related losses and expenses and demand full compensation from insurers.

If you have been injured in a car accident someone else caused in CharlottesvilleWinchester, Harrisonburg, Staunton or anywhere in the Shenandoah Valley, take advantage of the Kendall Law Firm’s offer of a free case evaluation. We will give you a straightforward assessment of your legal options and what damages you may be entitled to claim. If we can move forward with your case, we’ll investigate your accident, prepare and submit a claim, and press hard for maximum payment for you. You will not owe any legal fee unless we recover compensation for you.

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