How Are Auto Accidents Investigated?
Prompt investigation of an auto accident is crucial for determining how the crash occurred and who is at fault. Multiple parties may investigate the accident, each with different procedures and goals.
Although the ostensible aim of an investigation is to get to “the truth” behind the accident, it is important to remember that the parties involved are not acting in your best interest. In fact, until you hire an attorney, no one is.
The auto accident lawyers at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi have the experience and resources to investigate the collision thoroughly and advocate on your behalf. We know how law enforcement and insurance companies investigate accidents, and our team will do everything possible to protect your rights and pursue fair compensation on your behalf.
How the Police Investigate Car Accidents
The primary reason law enforcement agencies investigate car accidents is to determine if any laws were broken. Police officers may issue citations or even arrest one or more of the drivers depending on the offense.
A police report documents a number of details about the crash, including:
- The location of the accident
- The time and date the crash took place
- Names and contact information for everyone involved
- Details about the vehicles involved, including year, make, and model; license plate numbers; and damage from the crash
- Notes on any injuries and/or fatalities
- Statements from the drivers and occupants of the vehicles
- Witness statements
- Road, lighting, and weather conditions
- Details of the accident (this may be a written description or a diagram)
The accident report may also include the officer’s preliminary conclusion on who is at fault. If you were seriously injured or a loved one was killed in the car accident, a finding of fault on the part of the other driver can support your claim for compensation.
You or your attorney should obtain a copy of the police report as soon as it is available. Although the report is generally not admissible as evidence, the information can be very helpful for building your claim (especially if you sustained serious or catastrophic injuries and had to be taken to the emergency room directly from the scene).
How Insurance Companies Investigate Car Accidents
Insurance companies are principally interested in protecting themselves after an auto accident. They have teams of investigators ready to visit the scene of a crash at a moment’s notice.
Insurance company investigators will collect physical evidence at the scene, take photographs, and interview witnesses. They might also reach out to the parties involved and ask for statements, permission to examine medical records, and more.
Ultimately, insurance adjusters and investigators are looking for any and all evidence that can limit the company’s liability and what they may be obligated to pay in compensation. This often means persuading claimants to act contrary to their interests; recorded statements and medical records releases will be scrutinized by the insurer for information that can be used against you.
How Car Accident Lawyers Investigate Accidents
The police and the insurance companies have very different motives when investigating an auto accident. Although both have access to the same evidence, they frequently reach different conclusions.
Unfortunately, these conclusions can have an adverse effect on your ability to bring a claim. An independent investigation is essential for protecting your rights and recovering the compensation you deserve. This is why hiring a car accident lawyer is so important.
Auto accident attorneys frequently work with hired investigators to collect as much evidence as possible. The investigation typically involves the following:
- Photographing the scene of the accident, the damage to the vehicles, debris created by the crash, and marks on the road surface
- Taking pictures of the road or intersection where the accident occurred; this helps establish the presence of traffic signs and signals, visibility, and more
- Interviewing witnesses who saw the accident
- Determining if video exists of the accident and obtaining the footage
- Inspecting the vehicles involved
- Reviewing the accident report
Experts can utilize all of this evidence to reconstruct the accident. Accident reconstruction can be a powerful tool in settlement negotiations as well as if your case goes to court.
Ultimately, the goal of your lawyer’s investigation of the accident is to determine (1) how the accident occurred and (2) who is at fault for the accident. Your attorney will also investigate, collect evidence, and consult expert witnesses to determine the severity of your injuries and the damages you are entitled to as a result of the accident.
Is an Independent Investigation Required After a Car Accident?
New Jersey is a no-fault state. As a result, the majority of accident claims are paid through the victim’s own insurance.
However, just because you are dealing with “your” insurance company doesn’t mean the process will be any easier. When you file a claim under your own personal injury protection (PIP) policy, the insurer may dispute the damages based on the “findings” of its investigation.
This defense is even more likely if you bring a fault-based claim against the driver of the other vehicle. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will use any and all evidence recovered by its adjusters and investigators to justify paying you as little as possible or even denying your claim.
Evidence collected by your car accident lawyer is crucial for overcoming these difficulties. Unlike the majority of victims, an experienced attorney knows how to leverage the facts of the case to obtain the most favorable result.
Getting to the Bottom of Your Car Accident Claim
The attorneys at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi are trusted advocates for those who have been injured or lost family members in auto accidents. We have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our clients, and we will draw upon our extensive knowledge, resources, and more than 80 years of combined experience to pursue the full compensation you deserve.
Please call (201) 585-9111 to get started on your car accident claim. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi serves clients in Fort Lee and throughout New Jersey, as well as New York.