One of the most important reasons to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a car accident is so that the injured person, or the family in the case of a fatal accident, can be represented during the critical investigation phase of the case. Since the negligent party’s insurance company typically has representatives working on the case from the moment that the insured gives notice of the wreck, the plaintiff can be at a substantial disadvantage if he or she waits weeks or months before talking to a lawyer.
While it would be nice to assume that insurance companies “do the right thing” and pay out settlements when fault is obvious, this is rarely the case. Insurance companies stay profitable by looking out for the bottom line, not by doing what is fair to injured people. Even when liability is clear, there is still the matter of the amount of damages sustained by the plaintiff, especially if punitive damages are at issue.
Automobile Accidents and the Investigative Phase of Litigation
Recently, police announced plans to shut down a portion of a Texas interstate where a fatal collision occurred. Later, authorities announced that the collision was caused by a “wrong-way driver” and that alcohol may have been a factor. While the police investigation that led to this conclusion was swift and seemingly effective, such a proactive stance by authorities is the exception rather than the rule. Most likely, the intent was to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against the driver whose actions killed four people, rather than to determine liability in the event of a civil lawsuit.
Typically, an officer responding to an accident scene only prepares a basic report listing the drivers, passengers, witnesses, and a brief description of the accident. No further action is taken, although the officer may testify at trial, if subpoenaed by one of the parties.
The Realities of Car Accident Litigation
In most auto accident cases, it is up to the plaintiff to prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. This can include not only securing the accident report of the investigating officer, but also hiring a competent professional to take good-quality photographs of the accident scene and documenting the property damage and personal injuries suffered by the plaintiff. In cases in which liability is at issue or in which punitive damages may be sought, the plaintiff can also hire an accident reconstructionist who will review the accident report, examine the event data recorders from the respective vehicles, take measurements of the scene, and render a professional opinion as to fault.
All of this is done with the intention of providing the jury – when the case ultimately makes its way to trial, often years after the accident – with evidence from which they can make an accurate determination of who was at fault and which damages were suffered by the plaintiff. Such documentation can also prove useful in settling the case with the insurance company because the adjuster will be able to see that the plaintiff is well-prepared for trial and has no reason to “settle cheap.”
To Get Started on Your East Texas Accident Case
If you have been hurt or lost a loved one in an east Texas truck, car, or other motor vehicle accident, knowledgeable and assertive truck accident attorney Earl Drott can help you as you seek to recover maximum monetary damages from the party responsible for the crash. Call us today at (903) 531-9300, and we can schedule a free, confidential case evaluation for you. We handle cases in Tyler, Smith County, and elsewhere in east Texas.
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