Liability is the key factor that determines whether a driver prevails in an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit after a car accident. However, establishing liability by figuring out who hit who in a car accident can be difficult for insurance adjusters, investigators, and other relevant parties. Additionally, sometimes drivers lie about the events leading up to the collision to avoid financial liability and other negative consequences that sometimes happen because of car accidents.
Fortunately, law enforcement, investigators, and other parties have a wide range of tools they rely on to assess who hit whom in a car accident accurately. Below we take a closer look at these tools and the evidence they provide those who investigate liability in car accidents.
Location and Type of Vehicle Damage
One of the most common ways to tell who hit whom in a car accident is to examine the location and type of damage to vehicles involved in the accident. A car accident involves two or more vehicles traveling at a certain speed and direction. Various combinations of the two lead to different locations and types of damage, making it simple to determine fault in some cases.
For example, if a distracted driver rear-ends the car in front of them, the damage to the front of the striking vehicle and the rear of the front vehicle clearly indicate a rear-end collision, almost always caused by the rear driver. Other situations are not as simple. Location and type of damage might not provide the whole story, but it can indicate when a driver’s story does not match what actually happened.
In today’s world, most drivers, occupants, and eyewitnesses have cell phones, making it easy to get photographic evidence of a crash while it happened or immediately after it happened. Those involved do not have to wait for law enforcement to get accurate photos. In fact, sometimes drivers need to move their vehicles out of traffic after an accident, changing the formation of the vehicles, making it more difficult to figure out how the accident happened.
Photos do not typically provide a definitive answer to who hit whom in a car accident, but they support other evidence and make it easier for law enforcement and insurance providers to determine liability. Pictures can also provide information about potential witnesses and video surveillance cameras at nearby businesses.
Video footage of an accident and the accident scene helps the same way as photographic evidence.
Video footage might come from many locations, including:
- Dashcams from vehicles involved in the accident
- Traffic cameras located on roads and highways throughout Virginia
- Banks, restaurants, convenience stores, and other businesses that have external video surveillance cameras
Security camera footage from businesses sometimes captures the entire event, showing exactly who hit whom in a car accident. Law enforcement typically investigates accidents and looks for these sources, but sometimes they do not dig deep. A skilled Virginia car accident lawyer can request footage and investigate your accident to help find out who was at fault.
If your car accident occurred on a busy Virginia highway, interstate, or city street, you can often be sure other drivers or pedestrians witnessed the accident. Sometimes witnesses stop at the scene of the accident to provide a statement to law enforcement.
Witness statements are valuable evidence that supports the police officer’s account and your account of how the accident occurred. They do not always get every detail right, but they often fill in missing gaps of information and support other evidence, making it easier to determine who hit whom in a car accident. Eyewitness statements from some witnesses can be unhelpful. For example, witnesses driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot offer a reliable statement.
Sometimes car accidents lead to hit-and-run situations, or at-fault drivers deny responsibility for an accident. Other times, morally deficient drivers falsely accuse others of hitting their vehicle to receive money for the accident and associated injuries. Investigators and law enforcement get to the truth about who hit whom by analyzing paint transfers, paint chips, and rust patterns on vehicles involved in the accident. During car accidents, paint transfers between vehicles and some paint chips off; rust patterns show if a collision between two specific vehicles actually occurred. Investigators analyze these patterns to see if a car accident happened, how it happened, and which driver likely caused the accident.
Most new passenger vehicles have event data recorders (EDRs) that record information when a vehicle collides. An EDR works like an airplane’s flight data recorder, typically referred to as the black box. EDRs record data leading up to a collision, during a collision, and after a collision.
The recorded data is standard across most units and typically includes:
- The status of the vehicle and its systems before a crash
- Driver inputs
- The vehicle’s crash signature
- Seatbelt use
- Airbag deployment
- Activation of a vehicles automatic collision notification system, if applicable
This information provides clues to investigators about who hit who in a car accident.
Scientific Analysis From Accident Reconstruction Experts
Reconstructing an accident is typically regarded as the most scientific and reliable way to determine who hit whom in a car accident. Specialists have had extensive training in physics and engineering, allowing them to determine how an accident happened. They rely on multiple types of data to reconstruct an accident, including EDR data. Examples of information accident reconstruction experts use to determine fault include vehicle location after a crash, road conditions, vehicle damage, speed upon impact, the severity of the crash, and how well the drivers could see.
Sometimes it is easy to determine fault after a car accident, but other times it takes a wide range of tools and evidence to find the truth. An experienced Virginia car accident lawyer can help investigate your case to ensure liability falls with the right driver, giving you the best chance to recover compensation for any injuries.