Role of Police in Determining Fault in Car Crashes
Although no-fault insurance rules apply in Washington DC, fault can still be an important question after a car accident. That’s because there are certain exceptions to the no-fault law such as when an accident causes injuries that are substantial, disabling or disfiguring – or medical bills beyond the limits of no-fault coverage.
In order to recover compensation beyond what is available from your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, you must prove that another driver or some other party was at fault in the crash.
Although the police officer who comes to the scene may issue citations and assign blame for the crash in an accident report, the officer does not determine civil liability for accident damages. That said, the accident report and any traffic violations cited may be important evidence in a car accident lawsuit.
An experienced attorney at The Abelson Law Firm, in Washington DC can help you get your accident report and gather other evidence needed to make a strong case for compensation after a crash.
The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner the accident investigation can begin. Call us today to get your claim started with a free case review.
How Do Police Help Determine Fault in a Car Accident Case?
If you have been involved in a collision in Washington DC, you should contact law enforcement immediately. A police officer will usually be dispatched to the scene of the accident.
The officer should obtain contact and insurance information from every driver who was involved in the crash. Police may review statements from the drivers and from witnesses at the scene.
Police may also look at road conditions, the placement of the vehicles, debris on the road and other indicators of how the accident happened.
All this information may be included in an accident report prepared by the responding officer.
In some cases, the officer may believe, based on the evidence available, that one driver broke the rules of the road. For example, if a driver admits to running a red light or if witnesses testify that he or she did so, the officer may surmise that the motorist broke the law by failing to stop at the signal. The officer may issue a ticket to the driver who violated the rules.
The accident report and any record of a citation issued to the other driver could be valuable in helping you show that the other driver was at fault and liable for your serious injuries.
The report may be submitted as evidence in court and you could potentially call the police officer as a witness if your case goes to trial.
Other Ways Police May Assist with a Car Accident Claim
In addition to preparing an accident report (called the PD-10 if prepared by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department), police officers may also assist you in other ways.
For example, if a driver was intoxicated or impaired at the time of the crash, it could be difficult for you to prove this fact on your own. A police officer who suspects intoxication may order a breath or blood test for the other motorist. The toxicology report or breathalyzer results could be used as further evidence in a car accident case.
Proving the other motorist was drunk or on drugs may make it much easier for you to show that the driver should be held legally liable for the crash.
Police can also help in special situations such as hit-and-run collisions. Law enforcement officers can conduct investigations and have legal authority that you do not, making it possible for them to compel another motorist to provide certain information relevant to fault in a car accident claim.
It is important to remember, though, that the police do not determine who should be held financially responsible for a car accident. That is the role of the civil court system.
Even if the police’s accident report indicates that you were to blame for the crash, you should still get advice from a lawyer. A complete investigation may turn up evidence that was not available to the officer who responded to the call. That evidence may show that you actually were not at fault.
Talk To Our Washington Car Crash Lawyers Today
It is important to take prompt action to fully protect your legal rights after an accident. Contact The Abelson Law Firm today online or by phone to schedule a free consultation.