I Was at Fault in a Car Accident. What Can I Do?
If you are in a car crash, the police officer who investigates your accident does not have the final say about which driver is at fault. Furthermore, the officer may not testify about what he was told by the people involved in the crash. This rule (auto accident privilege) was created so people in a crash could speak freely to the investigating officer without fear of negative consequences.
A police officer may testify about what he witnessed at the scene of an auto accident, such as skid marks, the placement of the vehicles, the damage to the vehicles, and other physical evidence. However, his opinion about who was at fault carries no weight in a civil jury trial. I’ve handled many cases where the police officer found my client at fault, but I was able to prove otherwise. My clients in those cases ended up with reasonable settlements to compensate them for their injuries.
Another mistake people make is assuming only one person can be at fault for a single crash. I’ve handled many situations where both my client and the defendant were at fault for the same accident. Florida follows the comparative fault rule, which stands for the proposition that fault can be apportioned among the parties involved in a crash, and that each person involved in the crash is responsible for the damages to the extent of that person’s fault.
For instance, if my client ran a red light, but the defendant wasn’t paying attention and was texting while passing through the intersection, the jury might find both my client and the defendant at fault. If so, the jury would have to decide what portion of fault was attributable to my client, and which portion was attributable to the defendant. If, in that situation, the jury found my client 75% at fault and the defendant 25% at fault, the defendant would be responsible to my client for 25% of her damages, and my client would be responsible to the defendant for 75% of his damages. Some comparative negligence situations resulted in recoveries of several millions of dollars for our clients, because of the severity of their injuries- and because we were able to establish comparative fault of the defendant.
The bottom line: If you are hurt in an accident, call a qualified personal injury attorney, even if you think the accident was your fault. Almost all personal injury attorneys give free initial consultations, and you might be surprised about your rights.