Car accidents can be devastating. Gathering the evidence needed to make sure the responsible party covers all of the injuries is crucial, and a step that unrepresented victims often underestimate.
Unfortunately, even when it appears obvious who was at fault for an automobile accident, receiving compensation can be difficult. The other driver may change his or her story or the insurance company may refuse to pay. When this happens, lawsuits for negligence or wrongful death may be required in cases, large and small, to collect appropriate compensation.
Proving Negligence in Wisconsin Auto-Accident Cases
When preparing for a negligence case, the injured party generally needs to prove:
The other driver owed a duty of care to the injured party
That duty was not met
The failure to meet that duty resulted in the accident
The accident caused the injury
The first element can be easy to establish since every driver owes all other drivers a duty to drive with reasonable caution. The next element can be more difficult, since the person attempting to win the suit will need to prove that the other driver either violated a Wisconsin traffic law or otherwise failed to operate his or her vehicle safely. Proving this step often goes hand in hand with the third element. For this portion, the victim must prove that the other driver’s failure to operate the vehicle cautiously led to the car accident.
If, for example, the other driver was speeding at the time of the accident, the victim could argue that the other driver’s violation of the Wisconsin speed-limit law was a failure to operate the vehicle with care and led to the accident in question.
Finally, the victim will need to prove that the injury and vehicle damage were the direct result of the accident. Various types of evidence can be used to make this connection, including police reports, medical records and reports from medical experts.
Types of Evidence
A successful lawsuit often hinges on certain crucial evidence. Success requires a combination of gathering the right evidence in the first place and then using it properly in the suit to prove liability for the medical, wage loss, rehabilitative and other expenses of the victim.
A police report provides a fairly trustworthy source of information. It generally includes the police officer’s observations and opinions regarding who was at fault. It is a first step toward developing evidence to prove negligence on the part of the other driver.
The report may also contain physical facts collected during a post-accident investigation. This can include information about skid marks; gouges in the pavement or dirt; damage to guardrails, curbs and other structures; and impact points between the vehicles involved.
Wisconsin state traffic laws give additional weight to an argument that the other driver was responsible for the accident. If, for example, the crash occurred when merging into traffic and the other driver did not obey a yield sign, that driver is likely in violation of Wisconsin’s rules of the road. As a result, the other driver is more likely to be held liable for resulting injuries.
Another valuable piece of evidence relates to the type of accident. If it was a rear-end collision, the driver who strikes the rear of the other vehicle is almost always at fault. This type of crash is fairly easy to prove simply by examining the damage to the vehicles. Left-turn collisions also often result in fault for the driver making the turn since vehicles making these turns are normally required to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic.
Unfortunately, police officers and first responders may not gather enough evidence to build a strong case. Victims can be proactive to help make certain the at-fault drivers are held liable for their actions. Take pictures of the vehicles involved, roadway markings or other relevant things like branches blocking visibility, missing road signs and serious injuries.
When documenting the accident by taking photographs, include some close-range photos to help document specific vehicle damage and injuries.
If injuries were sustained, medical records may prove that the injuries were received from the accident and not pre-existing. It is also a good idea to begin keeping journal entries for any pain and other symptoms experienced after the crash. This may eventually help to prove a long-term injury that will require additional therapy.
The amount of evidence needed to build a strong auto-accident case can seem overwhelming. Contacting an experienced car accident attorney can help not only to ease your mind, but also to better protect your legal rights and remedies because you likely need professional assistance to investigate and gather evidence about the crash, and to build a strong and winnable injury case.