A very common issue and question – “I was involved in a car wreck with serious injuries and the other party is claiming it was my fault. Do I need a lawyer?”
The short answer is YES, but here’s some important information you will need to know.
Importance Of The Police Report
One of the main pieces of advice that we offer is to always get a police report following a wreck. Despite this admonition, many people involved in wrecks choose for convenience or because they think it is not necessary to wait for the police to come and do an accident investigation.
This means that once the parties leave the scene, there is no official record of what happened. There are only competing recollections offered by the two interested parties in a collision.
NO POLICE REPORT = NO OFFICIAL RECORD OF WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CAR ACCIDENT.
The Insurance Company Is NOT On Your Side
The insurance companies will always suggest that their insured is not responsible or will suggest that at least some responsibility lies with the other party. They will nearly always make this argument when they learn that there is no official wreck report.
As we have noted in several other blogs, insurance companies do not exist for the greater good. They exist to make money. To be exact, their main mission is to retain as much money as they can from the billions in premiums they collect each year. If they learn that there is a way to argue that a collision was not their insured’s fault, they will seize that opportunity because it will likely save them money.
An Evidentiary Battle
If you find yourself in a situation where the other party is now suggesting that you (the victim) are to blame for the collision, this will now become an evidentiary battle. It will be your account versus their account and, without more, each party will bear 50% responsibility for the event.
Without a wreck report, it will be imperative to seek out sources of independent evidence like witnesses or video footage that may have captured the event.
Steps to Take if You Don’t Have a Police Report
Having a police report form immediately after the wreck is very helpful, but the lack of a report is not fatal to your case.
A police officer who investigates a wreck and cites one party for a driving violation can be powerful evidence that the defendant driver is actually at fault. For instance, a defendant driver’s finding or admission of guilt in a citation hearing can be used as evidence of fault in a related injury case. However, because the officer most likely did not see the wreck occur, the report itself is hearsay and may not be admitted as actual evidence
Physical Evidence And Witness Testimony
If a police report is not available, you can still prove that the other driver was at fault, but the case moves into more of a “he-said, she-said” case. In this situation, you will have to rely on the physical evidence and witness testimony. For instance, you can prove fault by showing that the at-fault driver rear-ended you, which gives rise to a presumption that they were at fault. You can prove fault by testimony from other drivers who saw the accident and stopped to render aid.
Finally, in extreme circumstances, you can prove fault by hiring an qualified expert in accident reconstruction, who can show fault through complicated models that recreate the scene of the accident.
Only experienced lawyers are capable of navigating this process. Potential clients shouldn’t just hire any lawyer. Not all lawyers are equal in their training and qualifications. The Florida Bar does not typically allow lawyers to hold themselves out as “experts.” However, the Bar does allow lawyers who have extensive experience in personal injury and tort cases to become specialists in civil trial. Only one percent of Florida lawyers have this certification. Three out of the four lawyers on staff at Zarzaur Law, P.A. are Board Certified in Civil Trial.
So, when potential clients ask us about whether or when to hire a lawyer after an accident, we remind them that only a Board Certified civil trial lawyer is a specialist in this area of the law. Since all injury lawyers have the same “no fee no cost unless you win” payout structure, there is no reason to hire someone who is not a specialist.
Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.
It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.