In many car accidents that occur in Las Vegas, who is at fault is usually determined by evidence gathered at the scene. This is why police officers should be called; they know what to evidence to collect. In some other cases, who is at fault is so obvious even if a police officer wasn’t called to the scene. In some other cases, the police officer can’t determine who is at fault; even if a police officer did, the insurance company for the at fault driver may still dispute what happened. In the latter two cases, gathering certain evidence is the key to proving who is at fault. Next is determining the applicable rules of the road.
The first step in determining who is at fault in a car crash is to ascertain how the accident happened. This step requires gathering evidence, which can include:
- Statements of those involved in the crash
- Location and extent of the damage to the vehicles involved.
- Location of the vehicles after impact
- Speed of the vehicles before and at impact
- Skid marks
- Location of debris or parts that may have fallen off the vehicles
The Role of Police Officers
The first step in gathering evidence is to call the police to the scene of an accident. The following is a typical scenario in Las Vegas. You get into a car accident. Someone calls 9-1-1, and a police officer arrives and speaks to those involved in the accident. The police officer may even speak to independent witnesses at the scene. If there is video from a nearby business or from a dash cam, the police officer may likely view that video. The police officer may even document skid marks on the street and the location of the vehicles involved or debris from the vehicles. Before he or she departs, the officer may already conclude who is at fault for the accident and give that person a citation. While the police officer’s opinion as to who caused the accident is not admissible in court in most cases, the evidence gathered by the police officer is.
In car accidents involving fatalities, the police conduct a more thorough investigation, including measuring skid marks, location of debris from the vehicles, determining the point of impact. The police may even perform an accident reconstruction when necessary. When a police officer performs an accident reconstruction, the police officer’s opinion as to who caused the accident may be admissible in court as a form of expert opinion.
If a person who gets into a crash does not call the police, certain evidence may be lost. For example, most people do not document location of the vehicles immediately after impact. Most don’t notice skid marks, let alone take photos of or measure those skid marks. Most car accident victims don’t request video surveillance from nearby businesses. Unfortunately, business do not store surveillance videos for long, and the video may be lost if not requested in time. Thus, car accident victims should not wait too long to retain a car accident attorney in Las Vegas who knows to request those videos. Also, as noted in one of our other blogs, traffic cameras in the Las Vegas Valley may now be available.
Also, police officers may obtain a written statement from the driver’s involved describing how the accident happens. Those written statements are admissible in court when used against the person making the statement, particularly for impeachment. So, if the other driver later changes his or her story as to how the accident happened, a car accident attorney can just pull out that driver’s written statement.
Car Accident Cases Where Fault Is Clear
Certain types of car accidents, liability (i.e., who is at fault) is generally clear. In those cases, typically, how the accident happened is undisputed. Take for example the typical rear-end crash.
Often times (but not 100%), fault can easily be determined in rear-end accidents. In those cases, there’s usually no question that the at fault driver was directly behind the front car when the latter suddenly stopped. In many rear-end accidents, the driver that hit the front car is at fault. This would generally be the case even if the front car suddenly slammed on their brakes. Why? The answer can be found in NRS § 484B.127 and the Nevada DMV handbook. Section 484B.127 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) prohibits drivers from “follow[ing] another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.” Meaning, a driver should always leave sufficient space between the vehicle in front, enough space to allow the driver to stop, even if the front vehicle suddenly stops. The Nevada DMV handbook explains how long it would take to stop a car going at a certain feet and how many feet a car would travel even after hitting the brakes. A Nevada licensed driver is expected to know these; that’s why this information is in the handbook.
In the above rear-end crash example, how the accident happened was clear. An experienced car accident attorney can determine fault by simply applying the rules of the road.
Rules of the Road
Car accident claims are typically framed as a negligence case. Generally, negligence is the failure to do what an ordinary reasonable person would do under the circumstances. In car accident cases, we look to the rules of the road in determining what an ordinary reasonable person would do. A person who violates a law and injures someone could be liable under the theory of negligence per se. In such cases, the person whose actions violate the law is presumed to be negligent.
If your or a loved one have been injured in a car accident in Las Vegas, speak to an experienced Accident Attorneys at D.R. Patti & Associates today. With a combined total of 50+ years of experience as Las Vegas car accident attorneys, we know what it takes to prove your case.