It’s a typical day of driving to work, or maybe to your kids’ soccer practice. The late afternoon sun is flashing through the trees of your neighborhood road. Traffic is moving along smoothly. You have the radio set to your favorite station. You look down at your instrument panel to see that your tank is getting close to empty.
You look up just in time to see a small sedan gunning into the intersection ahead. Before you know it, all the thoughts of soccer practice or that work presentation are gone from your head. The other driver does not notice you at all. Time seems to slow as you slam on the brakes, but it’s too late to bring you to a stop before impact.
You try pulling the steering wheel hard to the left as a last evasive maneuver. You hear the scream of rubber tires on pavement and the hollow crunch of your car impacting theirs. The airbag goes off, you feel the force of it striking you in the face, and you hear glass shatter.
You have just been involved in a collision with a driver that has pulled out in front of you. Over the days or weeks to come, you keep running the scenario through your head. Avoiding the accident is no longer an issue—it happened. There’s no changing that now. Your face still hurts from the airbag, you have a sprained wrist, and you know the other driver sustained serious injuries.
You might be mulling it over in your head. Just who was at fault? The police seemed to see it one way, but they weren’t there. That guy came out of nowhere, and you had the right-of-way. You start to wonder, could you be held responsible for the accident?
Who Is At Fault?
The police who arrive at the scene of an accident may make their own observation of who was at fault for an accident in their police report. They may even issue a citation to a driver they find at fault. However, a police report or citation is not the last word on who was at fault for an accident—particularly in an accident where someone pulls out in front of you. Determining who was at fault in these accidents can be a difficult matter, and require a careful analysis of all witness testimony and evidence available.
Even in cases where blame seems obvious, an investigation may need to determine fault for an accident. Police officers sometimes make incorrect snap judgments that don’t take the whole story into account.
If you are in a car accident, do not claim fault or suggest you might have caused it. Consult an attorney first to protect your rights and ensure that you do not claim fault when the other driver caused the crash.
At-fault versus no-fault states
Some states follow an “at-fault” system when it comes to traffic accidents. This approach means that whoever caused an accident must pay compensation for damage and injuries.
On the other hand, no-fault states streamline the process by having each motorist’s insurance pay for their own damages, without the need to determine who was at fault for the accident. The idea behind the no-fault system is to expedite the process of payment for the drivers’ injuries and minimize the need for litigation.
However, no-fault states may prevent those with serious damages and injuries, especially for harms such as pain and suffering, from recovering the full compensation they deserve. Seeking more money in compensation is not a matter of greed in most cases, but rather is about having enough to replace a vehicle, pay for hospital bills, and be compensated for all impacts a victim has suffered as a result of a car accident—all of which a victim of a car accident deserves.
At-fault states stress the importance of determining who is to blame for the accident, such as by being distracted, speeding, or failing to take measures to avoid the accident.
Some at-fault states, like Texas, allow you to purchase no-fault insurance as optional coverage.
In an accident where you struck a vehicle that pulled out in front of you, you might suffer severe damages. The other driver might have sustained serious injuries as well. You need to know who caused the accident and if you were partially to blame, especially if you live in an at-fault state,
Determining fault in an accident where someone pulls out in front of you can be a difficult task
One oversimplified method of determining fault in an accident where someone pulls out in front of you is to treat it like a rear-end accident.
The driver of the vehicle that strikes the other is presumed at fault. But, unlike a rear-end accident, the driver of a vehicle that strikes another might have had the right-of-way. (In a rear-end accident, it is always the responsibility of the rear driver to maintain a safe distance by paying attention to the speed of the vehicle in front of them and the front vehicle’s brake lights so that they can make a stop when necessary.)
A driver at the rear should have sufficient time to avoid a collision if they are traveling at a safe speed, driving defensively, and are focused on traffic instead of being distracted by other things. By contrast, a driver who strikes someone who pulls out in front of them often has no notice of the other vehicle, which may unexpectedly jump out in front of them.
Pieces of the puzzle
Investigators put together all of the details of an accident to determine fault. Some important details include physical evidence, such as impact areas on both vehicles, calculations of speed based on skid marks, roadside sobriety tests, and eyewitness accounts. This information is crucial, but it can be interpreted in different ways.
In many car accidents, one of the most valuable pieces of evidence is the damage done to the vehicles. For example, damage done to the front side of a car might indicate the driver of the other vehicle struck that vehicle and is therefore responsible. However, more details are necessary to determine if this is the case. For instance, the driver of the car hit on the side might have run a stop sign and shot out in front of the other vehicle before that driver had a chance to take evasive action.
There are indefinite circumstances to tell how an accident occurred. The judgments made at the scene by law enforcement are often based on limited information, so it’s fair to question them or conduct a more thorough investigation.
If you are in a car accident where someone pulls out in front of you, do not admit fault, even if a police officer assigns fault to you. Instead, consult an attorney and determine whether these or other factors contributed to the accident:
- Speed of the vehicles: The relative speed at which each vehicle was moving is an important factor in determining fault. The faster-moving motorist is often at fault, especially one who pulled out quickly in front of a slower-moving vehicle. Excessive speeding not only increases the likelihood of an accident but also the severity of injuries sustained by those involved in the accident. Your car accident lawyer can determine the speed of the vehicles in many ways. Investigators might even make measurements of skid marks, which can be used to calculate the speed of the vehicle that left the skid marks.
- Road conditions: There might be factors to consider beyond the behavior of the drivers. What was visibility like in the area? Was snow or rain obscuring one driver’s view when the other driver pulled out? Was the road damaged or slippery? Was either driver going too fast to safely avoid an accident because of these conditions? Road and weather conditions are often the most important factors contributing to an accident.
- Traffic signs and signals: Did the other driver run through a stop sign? Of course, drivers who fail to abide by traffic signs and signals are more likely to cause accidents. Defensive driving can only protect you so much. Even if you have good situational awareness of traffic, your judgments about how to drive depend on others following the rules of the road. Someone who breaks those rules often leaves you no time to avoid an accident. Most cities have intersection traffic cameras, and some motorists use cameras on their vehicles to record potential accidents. Video footage like this is a particularly strong form of evidence to prove who was at fault for an accident.
- Intoxicated or impaired driving: The presence of drug or alcohol paraphernalia in a car can be a huge red flag to investigators. Drug paraphernalia or empty alcohol containers can indicate the driver who pulled out in front of you had been using substances and caused the accident due to being impaired. Criminal charges may follow.
What To Do In An Accident
Here are some things to keep in mind if you are in a traffic accident:
- Remain calm and call for emergency medical help.
- Make sure to get to a safe location and try to determine if you have any injuries that require medical treatment.
- Wait for the police. Never leave the scene of an accident.
- Do not admit responsibility for the accident.
- If it is safe to do so, document the incident scene by taking pictures.
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver.
- Get the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the collision.
- Contact an attorney to learn about your options.
A Life-changing moment
Motor vehicle accidents are often deadly or at least life-changing. A vehicle crash at any speed puts you in harm’s way, and there is a significant chance that you or the other party involved will sustain injuries, some of which could be permanent.
Our bodies are at the mercy of physics during a car accident. Incredible amounts of force are acting on tissue, bones, muscles, and organs. Not even crumple zones, airbags, seatbelts, or other advanced safety devices can prevent all injuries. Broken bones, ruptured organs, cuts and lacerations, and blunt force trauma are commonplace in vehicle accidents.
Concussions are also common in accidents, and a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may affect cognition or even lead to permanent brain damage or even death. TBI is a leading injury in motor vehicle accidents. Even minor accidents can result in whiplash, concussions, or more severe head injuries such as subdural hematomas, which are essentially bruises on the brain that cause swelling and even shearing of blood vessels and brain tissue. These life-threatening injuries typically require long-term recovery.
What can an attorney do for me after a car accident?
You might be wondering what an attorney can do for you after a car accident, especially one where someone pulled out in front of you.
After experiencing the ordeal of an auto collision, you have enough on your plate. You need help to assert your legal rights. You need to make sure your finances are protected so you can focus on recovery, rebuilding your life, replacing your vehicle, and attending to other changes in your life.
Here are just some ways an attorney can help you in your car accident claim:
- Investigate the accident: An attorney can review the evidence gathered at the accident scene and track down evidence that previous investigators might have missed to prove the other driver’s fault. An attorney’s assessment will be more comprehensive than that of a first-responder.
- Act as a go-between with insurance companies and other parties: Insurance companies are notoriously difficult to negotiate with. While you heal from your injuries, an attorney can deal with the insurance companies and the at-fault driver to work toward a settlement on your behalf.
- Navigate the legal system: The court system can be difficult to navigate on your own. An experienced car accident attorney will know how to navigate filing in court, should you need to bring a lawsuit to recover compensation.
- Network with experts: Often, legal teams call in experts to help assess a car accident case and figure out how the accident occurred. Their testimonies might be valuable evidence that can support you if your case goes to trial!
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.