Overcoming The Presumption Of Fault When You Were Making A Left Or Hit A Car From Behind

There are certain situations in which the law automatically presumes that you are at fault for any auto accident that occurs. This "presumption of fault" isn't always fair, however. What can you do if the law assigns the negligence that caused the accident to you, but you don't agree? Here are two common situations that you can find yourself in, and what to do:

If The Accident Involved A Left-Hand Turn

State laws vary on exactly how far in advance of a left-hand turn you have to signal, but 100 feet is common. You not only have to signal your turn to warn other drivers but also make sure that drivers behind you and in front of you are a clear distance away, giving you room to safely make the turn. If an accident occurs and you're hit, the law will automatically assign the negligence to you. The officer called to the scene will probably issue you a citation as well. This can be unfair for a lot of reasons:

  • If you're at a light, the driver that hit you may have been attempting to "run" it before it went red.
  • Some drivers don't want to be slowed down by traffic and will actually speed up when they see a car trying to cross left. This can cause a clear opening to become too short, very suddenly.
  • A driver might be distracted with his or her cell phone or GPS and not pay attention to your signal.

If you suspect any of these things to be true, you want to make sure that you get the names and contact information of any witnesses who were there on the scene. They can be used to give rebuttal testimony to try to overcome the presumption that you were the one who caused the accident. 

If the accident occurred at a traffic light or intersection, look for a traffic camera. There may actually be footage of the accident to back up your claim!

If The Accident Involved A Rear-End Collision

If you hit the car in front of you, it's assumed that you weren't keeping a reasonable distance between your vehicles and didn't give yourself enough space and time to react to the other driver's traffic maneuvers. Insurance companies often recommend that you leave 3-4 seconds of stopping distance between your car and any vehicle in front of you, as measured by how fast each of you pass by any one stationary object.

However, you can overcome the presumption of fault in certain situations:

  • The other driver's brake lights were out, making it impossible for you to tell that he or she was slowing or stopping.
  • The driver slammed on his or her brakes suddenly and came to a full stop.
  • You are struck from behind yourself, which forces your car into the car ahead, in a multi-car pileup.

Again, witness statements are likely to be important factors in this situation as well. Make sure that you ask any officer who responds to get the name of any witnesses who stayed around. In addition, look for skid marks on the ground. If you find any, take photos. Skid marks can show where various vehicles actually were when the drivers put on their brakes. Take photos of the cars while they are still in position on the road, as well. It may be possible to use an accident re-creation expert to show how the accident actually occurred. 

For more information, talk to an attorney who handles auto accident claims. You can successfully challenge a presumption of fault if you know how to tackle it. Contact a firm like Gibbs and Parnell to get started.