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Unfortunately, not every accident is straightforward, and it can sometimes take time, effort and perseverance to gather evidence to determine and prove who is responsible for causing the collision.
Additionally, there can be occasions when a driver attempts to avoid accepting liability by providing a different or fake account of what actually occurred in the accident. Resolving liability disputed claims requires a good attention to detail and a keen understanding of the evidence that is required to prove fault.
This evidence may consist of witness statements, location reports of the accident scene, police and vehicle engineering evidence and a thorough evaluation of the version of events provided by each driver. Scrutinising any inconsistencies in any of that evidence is crucial.
So what are the common types of liability disputes?
One of the most common accident types. They usually occur when one driver attempts to move into a different lane or fails to maintain good lane discipline.
A dispute often occurs when one party fails to tell the truth. The at-fault driver may allege it was actually the innocent driver who changed lanes, resulting in a collision.
Collisions may occur when a driver fails to give way to traffic that is already established on the roundabout. The driver that has pulled out on to the roundabout when it is unsafe to do so may allege that the established driver was speeding. Of course, it is very hard to prove the speed that a car was travelling at, so this argument tends not to succeed. In civil law, speed alone is not seen as the cause of an accident unless there is another ‘act of negligence’ that has occurred alongside it.
Other roundabout collisions may involve changing lanes or a driver cutting across the path of another to leave the island. This may involve an allegation that one or more of the drivers were in the wrong lane for their intended exit. Disputes often occur when there is a disagreement over who changed lanes or where one or more driver entered the roundabout from, causing a dispute over whether the driver was using the island incorrectly.
Accidents occur when the traffic light signal hasn’t been adhered to. Disputes will often arise when one driver has proceeded through a light displaying red, caused a collision, but then blames the other driver, insisting it was the innocent party who travelled through the red light and caused the accident.
Traffic light accidents can include those where the fault driver is incorrectly using a filter lane and fails to stop for the red signal. Likewise, they can be caused by a driver turning into the path of oncoming traffic, having not stopped at the red light.
If a traffic signal has stopped working, confusion can arise, and it is best to proceed with extreme caution. If an impact does occur in this situation, claims may be dealt with on a split liability basis.
Generally, the most common type of accident is a straight forward ‘hit in the rear’. On occasions, where that hit in the rear has occurred on an upwards incline, there is a possibility that the vehicle in front had rolled backwards into the front of the vehicle behind. Where there is a possibility of this, arguments about liability can occur.
This type of accident can occur when someone pulls out of a major road onto a minor road, or when someone attempts to turn right from a major into a minor road. An accident often occurs when a gap has been misjudged and the fault party moves off when it is not safe to do so.
Liability disputes can arise when one party blames the other for speeding or alleges that they have been signalled to commence their manoeuvre by another driver.
The rules about crossroads can be confusing, never mind considering unmarked crossroads. Generally, traffic wishing to turn right should give way to oncoming traffic. The key to using crossroads is courtesy. If another vehicle arrives there first, or is a large vehicle, they should be given priority. Priority should always be given when emerging from a minor road on to the main road.
At unmarked crossroads, nobody has priority but again, it is courtesy to allow the vehicle who arrived first to undertake their manoeuvre before yours.
Common accidents for cyclists involve those where a car driver has attempted to overtake the bicycle, perhaps when it has not been safe to do so. Other accidents can occur when a cyclist is in a cycle lane or to the left, and a car driver, proceeding in the same direction attempts to turn left into a side road. Another common situation is when a cyclist is passing parked vehicles and the occupant of a car opens their car door into the path of the proceeding bicycle.
What can I do to try and ensure there is no liability dispute?
You may wish to contact the police if you were not at fault but feel that there is a risk that the third party may leave the scene or give a false account of what has happened to cause the accident. Although the police may feel it is not necessary to attend the scene, if they do, they will compile a police report. This may contain statements of the drivers, witnesses and photos and diagrams of the scene. This police report can be invaluable when looking for evidence to support your version of events.
It is important to look for any witnesses at the scene of the collision. An independent witness is deemed as someone who you don’t know and has nothing to gain from giving you a supportive account of what happened in the accident. An independent witness statement can be the most important piece of evidence to support your claim. You may wish to let the other, at-fault driver leave first so you can rule out anyone approaching the other driver to act as a witness.
Whilst this isn’t as good as having an independent witness to support your claim, it can certainly help. A witness statement will generally contain a statement of truth which effectively means that the person signing the statement is happy to confirm that the facts contained in the statement are true. This document could be used in Court and the consequences of signing a statement of truth that you know are false can have dire consequences such as a fine or a prison sentence.
It is always worth enquiring as to whether there is CCTV footage of the location available. This may be held by the council responsible for the area, local shops and businesses. Private homes may have CCTV nowadays too. Obtaining supportive CCTV footage can result in an open and shut case.
Similarly to CCTV, any video footage if the accident that supports your version of events will likely result in you obtaining a full admission of liability from the insurers of the other driver.
These can help greatly. Pictures showing the layout (street view pictures from Google would be sufficient for this), can help to prove who is telling the truth when it comes to liability disputes. Likewise, photos of the resting place of the cars can help to paint a picture of what happened in the accident and show where liability for the accident rests. Photos of the vehicle damage can also assist.
Delays in reporting an accident to your own insurers can lead to assumptions being made. Of course, the decision of whether or not to report it is your own however; a delay could cause unnecessary inferences that you have something to hide.
The accident repair documentation will either support your version of events or it won’t. If the area of damage does not support where and how you have reported the accident damage being sustained, then it is unlikely that your version of events will be accepted amidst a liability dispute.
What if one of the drivers had been prosecuted?
This does not necessarily mean that the prosecuted party will be found at fault for the accident. Prosecutions don’t often attribute blame for an accident, but will rather be found if someone has been driving dangerously or recklessly, or failed to stop at the scene of an accident. For example, a driver may be found guilty of driving over the legal drink limit, but that does not necessarily mean that the accident was their fault.
The driver over the legal limit may have been in their vehicle, stationary at a set of traffic lights when they were hit in the rear. Being over the drink-drive limit didn’t cause the accident, it was the negligent driving of the car driver behind. In that situation, a prosecution should not mean you are found at fault for the accident.
Will I need to go to Court?
The more evidence that you have to support your version of events, the less likely it is that Court Proceedings will be required. Providing that the third party insurers are reasonable and accept that the evidence presented is valid and sufficient to prove your version, it is very unlikely that you will need to prove your case in the civil courts.
Oakwood Solicitors acted for a police officer who was involved in a Road Traffic Accident in Nuneaton. Our client emerged from a side road, turning left onto the main road. Weather conditions were good, and traffic was light as the accident occurred at 11.00 am.
A little after joining the main road, a vehicle approaching in the opposite direction, allegedly at speed, veered into our client’s side of the road, which resulted in a glancing blow to the driver’s side wing of our client’s vehicle. This caused the third party vehicle to veer to her left and collide with a lamp post on her side of the road.
A claim was submitted on behalf of our client for personal injury and uninsured losses. Shortly afterward, we received a response from the third party insurers. Their response denied liability and enclosed two alleged independent witness statements, both holding our client responsible for the accident. Both of these witness statements said that our client had pulled out of the junction and drove on to the third party’s side of the road, hitting the other driver, and causing the other driver to collide with the lamp post.
We returned to our client to take instructions. He informed us that he had exchanged details with the third party, and that the accident had occurred further up the main road than had been alleged. He had also felt that it was prudent to take photographs of the cars and the road layout. He was outraged at the thought that two witnesses had come forward as he was convinced that nobody had approached them at the scene.
This was supported by the fact that the other driver had left the scene of the accident first. He supplied us with a copy of the photographs that he had taken from the scene. The photos provided displayed skid marks that our client was adamant were from the third party vehicle. Those skid marks actually started on our client’s side of the road.
Whilst it was impossible to say with one hundred percent certainty that those skid marks were caused by the third party, the fact that the third party had veered off into the lamppost was supportive of the allegation that the third party had been speeding and had not been in full control of the vehicle. We returned to the third party insurers with a copy of the photos and proposing some questions to the alleged witnesses.
We emphasised that we thought the witness statements had been fabricated and set out a robust argument as to why we were not happy with the claims being made by the third party. Having chased the matter without reply, we discussed Involving the Courts with our client. We were satisfied that he would come across as being extremely credible and issued County Court Proceeding.
The Court set the matter down for a Trial. Shortly after that, we received a very reasonable offer from the third party Solicitors and we were able to wrap up the matter on behalf of our client. This case showed the lengths to which some people are prepared to go to in order to avoid accepting the blame, and what is sometimes required to be able to prove a version of events.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
For any legal queries about Road Traffic Accidents or Liability Disputes, get in touch today for a free initial consultation. Choose one of the methods on the right-hand side of this page, or call us on 0113 200 9787 to find out how we can help you.