If you were hurt in a motor vehicle collision, a personal injury attorney can conduct a thorough investigation to gather the evidence needed to prove liability, causation, and damages. The initial police investigation—and corresponding report—could still prove valuable, however, because it may provide preliminary information that guides your legal team.
How Do Police Investigate Car Accidents?
When officers arrive at the scene of a crash, their first priority is safety. Once traffic is directed away from the scene and those who need medical attention get it, police will proceed to investigate the cause of the wreck.
They will start by noting:
- The time, date, and location of the accident;
- The direction of travel of all the vehicles that were involved;
- The weather and road conditions;
- Who contacted them and how; and
- Who witnessed the accident from where.
After recording the basic facts surrounding the incident, officers will obtain statements from the motorists and passengers who were involved. They may also interview those who witnessed the crash. Although the police will attempt to gather as much information as they can, your legal team will likely want to interview eyewitnesses, as well. As such, you should obtain the names and phone numbers of everyone at the scene for your own records.
Police will include their own observations in the report. For example, if they have reason to believe one of the drivers is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will note as much. They will likely conduct breath tests, as well, regardless of whether any of the drivers exhibit signs of impairment.
Before clearing the scene, law enforcement personnel will document the final position of each vehicle that was involved. This will allow them to retrace the cars’ paths so they can attempt to determine what happened in the seconds leading up to the wreck.
Although the responding officers may be fairly thorough, they have an obligation to clear the scene as quickly as possible so the normal flow of traffic can resume. As such, you shouldn’t rely solely on their investigation to prove liability.
If you’re able to walk around the scene, for example, you should photograph the vehicles from all angles for your own records. Your attorney may need these images when it comes time to prove fault.
How Do Personal Injury Lawyers Investigate Car Accidents?
A resourceful car accident attorney with a vast legal network may be able to obtain evidence that law enforcement personnel overlooked, like dash cam footage and surveillance recordings from cameras near the scene. Coupled with the official police report and the results of any chemical tests that responding officers conducted, this may be enough to prove fault. If liability is still unclear, however—or if the at-fault motorist shirks responsibility—you may need additional evidence.
Should this turn out to be the case, your lawyer may consult accident reconstruction experts. These professionals can determine what happened by evaluating photographs of the scene and details like skid marks and broken glass.
Depending on the circumstances, your attorney may also need to review the following over the course of the investigation:
- Cell phone records;
- Toxicology reports;
- Vehicle maintenance records;
- Vehicle schematics;
- City planning blueprints;
- Municipality maintenance records;
- Weigh station receipts;
- Cargo loading plans;
- Black box data;
- GPS data; or
- Driver’s logs.
How Can I Contribute to the Car Accident Investigation?
The single most important step you can take to support your lawyer’s efforts is documenting the scene of the crash before leaving the area. If you’re unable to walk around and do so, call a friend or loved one who can help.
If none of your local acquaintances are readily available, call a personal injury attorney. A committed professional will be happy to send someone from the office to record the scene for you.
What Will My Legal Team Do with the Evidence They Obtain?
Your legal team will use the evidence they uncover over the course of the investigation to build a case against each responsible party. Once they have obtained sufficient proof of fault, they will file third-party claims on your behalf.
Because the investigation process usually yields strong evidence of fault, most car accident claims are settled. If the insurer finds reason to deny or devalue your claim, though, proceeding to litigation may be the only way to pursue the compensation you deserve.
Should this be the case, your lawyer will prepare your case for discovery. After filing the initial complaint, discovery will commence. During this stage, both parties essentially conduct subsequent investigations. If discovery yields additional evidence of fault, your attorney may be able to convince the opposing party to settle.
If, on the other hand, it doesn’t, your case may proceed to alternative dispute resolution. If the case is not resolved through ADR, it may proceed to trial, where a judge or jury will assume control over the outcome.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you were seriously hurt in a motor vehicle collision through no fault of your own, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. We have the resources of a large practice, but we remain committed to providing the attentive, one-on-one counsel of a small, local firm.
By letting us handle the logistics of your case, you can focus on more important matters, like making a full recovery and providing for your family. Call (562) 206-1939 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free consultation with a car accident attorney in Long Beach.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency Response .PDF
It certainly doesn’t hurt to be prepared for all eventualities, and if you drive often, there’s a chance you could end up in a wreck someday. By printing our Car Accident Emergency Response .pdf and keeping a copy in your glovebox, you will always have a detailed checklist on hand to help you document the scene before leaving. This will contribute to the subsequent investigation and help you pursue the maximum payout possible. Download it HERE for free.
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