Assigning fault for a car crash or truck accident in Virginia determines whether victims can file and collect on claims for personal injuries or wrongful deaths. Since Virginia follows the rule of contributory negligence, answering the question of who caused a collision is particularly important. Victims who materially contribute to causing their own injury forfeit their right to secure insurance settlements or proceed with civil lawsuits under Virginia contributory negligence law.
There are three things you can do following any traffic accident to clarify that someone else is entirely to blame. Partnering with an attorney who has decades of experience handling personal injury and wrongful death cases for clients in Virginia will make doing these things easier.
Obtain and Analyze All Available Police Reports
Virginia requires everyone involved in crashes on public roads and highways to call law enforcement and, when necessary, emergency medical personal. The police officers or state troopers who respond are then required to conduct an investigation and write at least one report that summarizes their findings. Officers may also state their conclusions about why the wreck occurred and which driver was at fault.
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All those police reports are public records. You can work through your lawyer to obtain the report on your crash, or you can request copies directly.
Once you have the report, read it carefully. Pay particular attention to mentions of moving violations like speeding, following too closely or failing to yield of right of way. Mentions of suspected alcohol or drug use can also be important, as can notes about defective equipment such as bald tires or faulty brakes.
Conduct an Independent Investigation
This is just one of the times that hiring a longtime personal injury and wrongful death lawyer will prove its worth. The attorney will know the relevant traffic laws and local ordinances. They will also be able to call on experts to visit the crash scene and put together reconstructions.
The official police report should guide the initial inquiry, but the work of investigators and forensic specialists will provide many more details and yield answers to questions law enforcement left unresolved.
A lawyer will also know how to contact and interview witnesses and take depositions from drivers and passengers. Your recollection of events will play an important role in assigning fault for the crash, but other people will have viewed the crash from different angles and taken notice of things you could not see.
Be Prepared to Refute Allegations of Contributory Negligence
As noted above, insurance companies and at-fault drivers can avoid liability in Virginia by showing that an injured or deceased victim did even the smallest thing to cause the crash. Expect them to try to do this.
The police report and the results from the independent investigation will be essential for countering accusations of contributory negligence. Your lawyer will know how to deploy those resources.