Most of us know the rules of conduct following a minor auto accident: pull over out of the way of traffic and exchange insurance information with the other driver – but we would like to add another important task – look for and identify any corroborating witness. This is especially important in certain types of collisions.
The Red Light
Unless there is a corroborating witness to a red light violation that caused an accident, often these types of incidents become a he said/she said situation. Both parties often insist that their light was green. If no one was around to witness the collision and the status of the traffic control lights immediately prior to the accident, the involved parties’ insurance companies may declare the ensuing claims “a tie”, essentially. This can be infuriating when you are certain that the other party ran a red light. It feels as though you are being punished for doing nothing wrong and the other party is walking away with no repercussions for negligently causing an accident.
The Phantom Vehicle
An example of the phantom vehicle accident is when a negligent driver causes another vehicle to suffer an accident, then takes off and is never seen again. The term phantom is most often used when there is no contact between the two vehicles, and thus no physical evidence of the second, negligently driven car. Say for instance, a car swerves into your lane, causing you to maneuver to avoid a collision, and in the course of that maneuver you lose control of your car and end up in a ditch. The best case scenario here is that a corroborating witness will stop and provide his or her contact information. While in this imaginary scenario your insurance company may still attribute some fault to you for the loss of control, with the witnesses account of the other vehicle’s negligence, it is unlikely you will be assigned 100% fault.
The No-Contact Accident
This unusual situation recently happened to someone we know. She was slowly exiting a parking lot when a moped driver suddenly came from her left. She braked with more than sufficient time to avoid a collision. The moped driver, however, lost control of his vehicle and dropped it, causing damage to his vehicle and injury to his arm. Despite the fact that there was fully 15 feet between the grill of her vehicle and the point where he dropped his bike, the moped driver insisted that it was her fault. After taking recorded statements from both involved parties, each insurance company found the other party to be at fault. This is similar to the red light he said/she said situation and a corroborating witness could have added essential information to the liability determination.
In summary, add “look for corroborating witness” to your mental checklist of things to do following a minor accident.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, give me a call at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 if you are outside the Sacramento area, for friendly and free advice.