So you were a driver in a motor vehicle accident, and you suffered significant injuries. The California Highway Patrol or a local law enforcement agency arrives at the accident scene. There is chaos at the scene. EMTs have placed you on a gurney and are treating your injuries. From your gurney, you can hear the other driver telling the law enforcement officer that you caused the accident. You try to speak up. You believe that you were not at fault, and you try to give the officer pertinent information. Yet, you are too injured to properly tell your story.
A few days later, the officer’s traffic collision report is released and concludes that you were at fault for the accident. The officer failed to include all the information that you provided him or her. How do you prove your case now? To make matters even worse—your automobile insurance carrier accepts the officer’s conclusion and wants to pay the adverse driver for his vehicle damage and his injuries. You consider not pursuing your case. After all, it seems hopeless. Nobody is on your side.
Well, it is not hopeless. Every day, our firm deals with situations like yours.
First, we, in part, rely on California Vehicle Code 20013, which states, “No such [traffic collision report] shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal, arising out of an accident….].” Therefore, the officer’s report is inadmissible in court. The officer’s report will not be seen by a jury or judge when deciding your case in a trial.
Second, our firm hunts for independent witnesses. There may be independent witnesses who were not interviewed at the accident scene. Those witness statements could be crucial to proving your case.
Third, if our firm has to file suit, then we can subpoena the officer and others who made statements at the accident scene. We can question the validity of those statements through a discovery process commonly known as a deposition.
Fourth, our firm can retain experts who can reconstruct the accident using engineering and human perception calculations to determine fault.
Fifth, our firm can challenge the officer’s experience and qualifications in concluding who was at fault for the accident.
Sixth, California is a comparative fault State. That means that those responsible for an accident are assigned a percentage of fault and are responsible for damages caused based on that percentage. Thus, you may not be 100% at fault even if the law enforcement officer indicated you were at fault. It may be that you are only 50% at fault in which case you will be entitled to 50% of your damages.
In sum, you should not give up hope if the law enforcement officer concluded you were at fault. Our firm can still help you present your side of the case, and in many cases, can still recover compensation for your injuries.