In the wake of a serious car accident, you may not know what to do. The crash scene may be weeks behind you now, but that doesn’t mean you have any more clarity about how to proceed. You do know one thing for sure, though – this accident was not your fault. As best you can tell, the other driver in the accident was distracted at the moment the crash occurred.
As a result, you may have plans to seek litigation against that negligent driver. However, your hunch alone won’t be enough to prove that individual’s liability in court. Instead, you’re going to need some hard evidence that can help prove that the other driver was distracted. As you’ll see in this guide, there are numerous forms of evidence that you and your lawyer can collect in order to make your potential liability lawsuit more compelling.
When it comes down to it, you shouldn’t settle for just one of the following types of evidence. In fact, if you want to build a successful case, you’ll likely need more than one piece of evidence from this list. Hiring the right personal injury lawyer can also ensure that your evidence portfolio is as filled out as possible. If you live in Philadelphia, PA, that means calling on the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky.
What is distracted driving?
Though precise definitions differ from state to state, distracted driving is usually an act or habit that causes a motor vehicle driver’s attention to be taken off of the road. Such an act can occur negligently (such as when looking at a cell phone) or aggressively (such as when speeding up to pass another vehicle). Distractions at the wheel can also be broken down into visual, manual, and cognitive distractions.
Several common examples of distracted driving
• Using an electronic communication device (such as a cell phone)
• Talking to passengers
• Grooming one’s self
• Eating or drinking
• Adjusting the radio or a music-playing device
Tracking Down the Police Reports
Before seeking out any other kind of evidence relating to your accident, you need to track down the accident’s police report. These reports are absolutely crucial because they contain documentation of all evidence found at the scene of the accident by the responding officer. This may include written “statements” from each driver describing what took place before the accident occurred. These statements can be parsed later on to determine if either driver claimed partial responsibility for the accident but denied doing so later on.
It also likely includes a timeline of events from the point when the officer arrived, as well as their assessment of the scene before the damaged vehicles were removed. This last component is absolutely crucial because it can help a vehicle collision expert assess how the occurred and who (if anyone) is “at fault” for its occurrence.
Obtaining a police report copy may take some searching but doing so can really pay off. So long as a law enforcement official responded to the scene of your accident (which occurred if you or the other driver called 911), a police report will have been filed with the local police office or precinct. Often, your best option for obtaining a copy should start by calling the local police department. From there, they can direct you through the procedure for obtaining a copy that can then be passed along to your lawyer.
Witnesses and Testimony
As with any kind of litigation that involves liability, one of the best kinds of evidence you can bring to the courtroom is an eyewitness. This could be anyone who witnessed your car accident occur, such as a nearby pedestrian or another driver. Typically, when a law enforcement official responds to the scene of your accident, they will take witness statements and include them in the police report. However, witness testimony may also be obtained later on if the witness leaves the scene before their account can be documented.
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, a law enforcement official may also be able to serve as a witness. In particular, a police officer may be able to serve as a witness if they observed any erratic or improper driving behavior on the part of either driver before the accident occurred. If you believe that a law enforcement official witnessed your accident first-hand, then you should bring that up with your car accident attorney as soon as possible. They can help you make plans to obtain that officer’s testimony (if it is not already in the appropriate police report).
Photos and Videos
Photographic evidence can be some of the most compelling when it comes to car accidents. Naturally, it is unlikely that either you or the other driver have photos from just before the accident occurred. However, photos of the accident scene soon after it occurred can help piece together its appearance. In turn, those photos can be used corroborate the scenes description in the appropriate police report. They can also be reexamined after the fact to look for details that indicate distracted driving.
Along the same lines, video recordings of any stage of the crash can be extremely useful in proving an opposing driver’s liability. Useful video can come from numerous sources, such as a nearby security or traffic camera. Dash camera video is also very useful as it can show the conditions inside either vehicle before the accident occurred. A passenger’s personal video recording (such as on a smartphone) may even be useful, particularly if demonstrates any amount of distraction on the associated driver’s part.
Cell Phone Records
Cell phones are one of the largest causes of distracted driving today. Whether it is answering a call, sending a text, or fiddling with an app, today’s phones can distract a driver like never before. While another driver is not likely to admit to phone use prior to an accident, there is another way to find if one was in use at that critical moment – through device-related records.
Many smartphones today keep records of every key stroke and activity, making it fairly easy to go back through and discover if the device was in use when the accident in question occurred. In fact, many smartphones even maintain data on when the phone’s screen is turned on, even if it is not being actively used. This, along with text and call records, could conclusively prove another driver’s distraction at the wheel.
However, due to current privacy laws, you may not be able to just request phone records if you suspect another driver of distracted driving. In fact, that driver’s lawyer may attempt to deny such a request if they believe it will show their client’s liability to any degree. As such, you may need to work with law enforcement officials in your area to obtain a search warrant for their phone. This can particularly be done if certain kinds of phone use at the wheel are illegal in your area.
An Admission of Guilt
Though it is generally rare, you may discover that the opposing driver in your accident admitted to some form of distraction prior to the crash. Such an admission may all but prove their liability in court, but only if that admission statement was recorded in a certified manner. For example, if the driver inadvertently mentioned some form of distraction in their statement to the police, you’ll have a reliable record of it to use as evidence.
However, if the opposing driver admitted some degree of guilt to you directly, you may have a harder time getting it accepted by a court. This is because most courts treat this kind of record-less statement as “hearsay” unless some documented support for its validity can be provided. Even if you did obtain an admission of guilt in this manner, you may still have an opportunity to utilize it. If the other driver is compelled to give a deposition, questions about this kind of admission can be raised by your lawyer.
Hire A Lawyer if You believe that you were injured by a Distracted Driver
In the end, your hunch about another driver’s distracted driving need not remain a guess at all. As you can see, there are lots of options when it comes to finding evidence that supports the conclusion of distracted driving. In many cases, compiling more than one piece of evidence pointing to this same conclusion can help make your argument for other driver’s liability more compelling. In the long run, it may even help you earn the monetary compensation you deserve.
But of course, your evidence cannot speak for you on its own in court. In fact, you may not even be able explain your evidence effectively if you lack experience with litigation. However, a seasoned personal injury attorney can do that and more when it comes time to file a lawsuit against a distracted driver.
For car accident victims living in Philadelphia, PA, you can contact the the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky. They maintain a team of skilled litigators who can ensure that your claims and your evidence are always properly received in court.