Victims of vehicular accidents often wonder if they are partially at fault if someone pulls in front of them on the roadway. If someone cuts you off and you smash into them, it is easy to see why you might feel at least somewhat responsible for the crash.
Vehicle accidents can be complicated affairs. With so many cars and trucks on our roads daily, it is truly amazing that more accidents don’t occur. When accidents do happen, they can be devastating and sometimes deadly.
But how do you prove fault when someone pulls out in front of you? What if they pulled in front of you and you couldn’t possibly stop?
Let’s look a little deeper into this case to get some clearer answers to this very common personal injury question.
Who Is At Fault in an Accident?
To analyze this question, it helps to understand the law. Lawyers are able to prove crash liability based on a few factors.
A big indicator that another driver is at fault in an accident is when you sustain damage to your passenger side door only. This indicates that a driver hit you instead of the other way around.
However, other pieces of evidence would be needed, as vehicle damage isn’t enough to prove liability on its own. It is a piece of a puzzle that a skilled lawyer will put together for a jury or judge in order for a decision to be made. If the other driver sustained heavy damage to the front of his vehicle and you sustained damage to the passenger side of yours, that paints a clearer picture that you were broadsided and that the other driver was most likely at fault.
When a vehicle pulls out in front of you, you end up with front end damage and the other car ends up with the damage to their passenger door. In this situation, the damage to the vehicles is not an indication of who was at fault. One must also look to the circumstances of how the accident occurred. Thus, looking at the damage to the vehicles is only part of the story.
The Scene of the Accident
A lawyer will take into account how the roadway or intersection is set up and what kind of driving maneuvers would be deemed lawful or a violation of the vehicle code. For example, sometimes people get tired of waiting in traffic and they use the left turning lane, in the middle of the street, to pass up all the traffic, which can cause an accident with those who intend the lane for turning left. Or an intersection can have a permission left hand turn, where there is no light to guide the traffic turning left through the intersection, in which case the person turning must always yield to oncoming traffic.
If your lawyer can prove that the other driver was texting and driving or just not paying attention to the roadway, there’s a good chance that the other driver could be shown to be at fault for the accident.
Were You Following Traffic Laws?
You can be held partially at fault when you don’t follow the rules of the road and the other person didn’t either, so both of you created a dangerous situation. For example, someone could be using the right shoulder to pass other cars and you could be making a left turn and get hit by the person using the right shoulder to pass cars. These are difficult cases, because even though traffic may have stopped for you to make your left turn, the person using the shoulder may have been unaware that traffic was stopping for you and that’s why they ended up crashing into your car. The person using the right shoulder often will say that they were intending to make a lawful right turn and that’s why they were on the right shoulder, or they may lie and say they were in the lane closest to the curb and they were not using the right shoulder to pass other cars. In this situation, it can be difficult to determine who was at fault, so this often leads to both parties assuming some degree of liability.
Ways to Prove that Someone Who Turned in Front of You is at Fault
Making a left turn in front of other traffic is a dangerous thing to do, no matter how fast your vehicle is. The best thing to do is to wait for traffic to pass before making a left turn, unless you have a left turn arrow.
California Vehicle Code 21804 (a) states “The driver of any vehicle about to enter or cross a highway from any public or private property, or from an alley, shall yield the right-of-way to all traffic, as defined in Section 620, approaching the highway close enough to constitute an immediate hazard, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to that traffic…”
How do you prove that the other driver committed an illegal turn? Witnesses are an excellent first start. If anyone was present when the other driver pulled in front you, which then led to the accident, their statements provided to the court can help to back up your personal injury claim, leading to a win in your favor.
Using a camera in your car to capture everything in front of your vehicle while your driving is also a good way to prove the other driver was at fault.
Obtaining camera footage from nearby stores, office buildings, houses in the area, an apartment complex, city buses, and sometimes from cameras on the traffic signals.
If you can prove that you had the right of way, then generally, California Civil Jury Instruction, 452 Sudden Emergency, can be used to show that you were not at fault for the accident. This jury instruction states that the person who acts reasonably in an emergency situation is not negligent. It is reasonable for a driver who has the right of way to crash into someone who turns in front of them all of a sudden, since the driver with the right of way had no reason to think that the other vehicle would take such action.
How to Prove the Other Driver’s Negligence?
What if the accident happened, but there were no witnesses? Could the other driver simply accuse you of being liable for the crash?
Accidents are hectic situations. Your adrenaline is flowing, and moments after the wreck you find yourself taking stock of your health and surroundings. If you are unharmed, but your vehicle is damaged, you may want compensation to have your car or truck fixed. If you were harmed in the accident, you may want help covering your mounting medical bills, loss of wages, and rehabilitation to help you get back on your feet.
To increase your odds of obtaining a fair amount of compensation for your damages, you should gather as much evidence as you can the moment you are able. If you can’t gather evidence, have someone else gather it for you. Immediately following a vehicle wreck, you should call 911 to ensure the necessary emergency services are notified. Even if the ambulance is still en route, if you can, try to gather evidence. Every little bit counts.
Photos of the Accident
One of the primary ways you can begin building your case following your accident is to take plenty of photos. Video can also be effective. You want to take photographic and video evidence of the damage to both vehicles, the roadway, buildings in the area, vehicles driving by, city buses nearby, the traffic lights, and any signage or obstacles that may have contributed to the accident.
Get an Accident Report
You should call the police to report the accident.
The police will conduct a preliminary investigation, which usually indicates fault from their perspective. If the police officer determined that the other driver was at fault, a copy of her report stating that fact is helpful to show that you were not at fault. When you have a trusted officer of the law backing up your claims that the other driver was negligent, you successfully stack the deck strongly in your favor in a court of law.
Request and keep all records for your medical treatment and communication with insurance companies. If you need an ambulance, get receipts and proof of all medical care. These documents can be used in court to prove the severity of the crash and can be of assistance when calculating damages.
Even if you weren’t harmed in the crash as far as you can tell, it might pay to visit the emergency room or your primary care physician as soon as possible. Some accident injuries aren’t always immediately apparent. Aches and pains can manifest days later. Early treatment is always key when it comes to medical care. A checkup and imaging of any injured areas couldn’t hurt and could help you receive the necessary medical care before your symptoms get worse.
The two main types of damage claims after a car accident are property damage and personal injury damages. Property damage is primarily regarding damage to your vehicle, a rental car, loss of use of your vehicle, and your personal items that were in your vehicle that may have been damaged. Personal injury damages include medical bills, estimated future medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Mistakes to Avoid When Filing a Personal Injury Claim
When filing a claim after a driver pulls in front of you and causes an accident, there are some actions you should avoid if you want to have the best chances of succeeding with your case.
For instance, never lie about the circumstances leading up to the crash. Even if the truth doesn’t paint your actions in the best light, be as truthful as you can. Attorneys and insurance companies are very thorough, and the truth is bound to come out anyway during the preliminary and subsequent investigations.
You should also ensure that any forms you are asked to complete are free of errors. A single mistype can hurt your case.
Other mistakes that can hurt your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve include waiting to seek medical attention until weeks after the accident, signing anything without speaking to your attorney, talking about your case with third parties like insurance company representatives, and posting information about your accident to social media.
Trying to negotiate with the insurance company yourself can also diminish the value of your claim. Insurance companies know that unrepresented parties can be persuaded to take very little, and sometimes they can make it seem like the accident is your fault and you shouldn’t get anything. Even if there is no noticeable damage to your vehicle, you should contact an attorney to represent you. If you fail to report the accident and the other driver files a claim, you would be at a distinct disadvantage, as the other driver would have ample time to build a case.
Instead of being surprised by a personal injury claim, you should at least get the opinion of a personal injury attorney before you opt to ignore the matter outright.
A call to an attorney can protect your rights. If you have damages, a personal injury lawyer is your best chance of getting covered for all the expenses related to your accident.
Other than a call to 911 and the appropriate medical and emergency personnel, your personal injury attorney should be the next call on your list. By notifying your lawyer about the accident and the other driver’s negligence, you allow for an investigation to begin immediately.
Your attorney can conduct interviews, survey the scene relating to the accident, and speak with insurance adjusters. Instead of having to build a case as you are recovering from your accident, your attorney is working behind the scenes on your behalf.
Contact Personal Injury Attorney Moses Yneges for a Free Consultation
Have you been injured in a vehicle accident that you feel was caused by the other party? Contact The Accident Injury Law Center in Orange County, California, and tell us about your accident. We can schedule you for a phone call or complimentary meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney. This free consultation is confidential and designed to set your mind at ease during this difficult time. The time to build a case for your claim is immediately after the accident occurs. Instead of waiting, call now so we can get started on your claim right away.