While driving on a rainy evening along the highways of St. Louis, you encounter another car, and the both of you collide. Fortunately, you survived with minor scratches, but the other driver was injured and declared unconscious. A police officer happens to be positioned nearby and quickly went over to investigate, and called for emergency assistance. The officer remarked that the other driver had a strong alcohol smell. However, are you already off the hook? Who pays for the damage of the car? An investigation would be performed to find out these answers.
Who can investigate a car accident?
Only police officers and independent investigators investigate car accidents. Police officers may include those from the Missouri Highway Patrol, local sheriff’s office, or police department that has jurisdiction in the place where the accident happened.
They are typically the primary investigators who document the scene of the incident, gather witnesses, and question drivers and passengers. However, if they get conflicting stories from the drivers and witnesses involved, they might not cite anyone yet for being responsible for the crash. Nevertheless, the results of their investigation would be significant when a case is filed in court for injury compensation claims.
On the other hand, independent investigators are private individuals unaffiliated with any law enforcement agency whose job it is to establish fault.
You, the other driver, or your respective personal injury lawyers or car insurance carriers can hire a private investigator to gather evidence related to the case and determine the cause of the accident. Aside from gathering witnesses and documenting the evidence of the incident, these professionals can conduct forensic tests to try and retrace the speed and direction of origin of both cars before the collision.
Establishing the three elements of fault
As you can see with the scenario previously mentioned, it’s not easy to determine fault. One or both of the drivers involved could have been knocked unconscious by the crash. Even if the other driver has a DUI violation, it doesn’t mean they caused the accident.
Weather conditions such as rains can complicate the situation. You or the other driver may be stunned to recall the events accurately, and fear of prosecution may cause one or both parties to tell lies. It will require an exhaustive investigation to find who is at fault in the incident.
Each party would be investigated for breach, neglect of duty, and cause. Breach is the thing either of you did that would be considered careless or unreasonable.
A drunk driver is clearly a breach. However, if you were overspeeding on a slippery road even as you were never drunk, you can also be held for breach. Neglect of duty is the failure to take measures that would prevent harm or loss. Worn-out brakes are definitive evidence of neglect of duty in car accident cases. The cause is where you need to prove that it wasn’t you who led to the collision. Drunk driving per se can’t be the cause of an accident unless investigations prove otherwise.
Accident scene inspection
To gather evidence that would establish the weight of fault of the parties involved in the accident, an investigator would go to the scene. They would note the exact location of the accident, the date and time it occurred, the weather and road conditions, the time the police were alerted and arrived on the scene, information on the person who reported the incident to the police, and the state of the car.
The investigator would also look into the skid marks, dents, damaged and undamaged parts of the vehicles, and the resting place of the cars involved. They will take photos of the scene from various angles and directions. With the data they gathered, they can attempt at figuring out how the accident took place, when and where it happened, and the circumstances before, during, and after the incident.
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