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If you've been in a car, truck or motorcycle wreck in Texas and you were hurt as a result, you're going to need to file a claim. If the accident was someone else's fault, you will need to show their insurance company evidence to prove it - without proof, the insurance company will deny your claim.
Most of the time, you can prove fault by conducting an investigation. If you've hired an personal injury attorney, then you're covered - they will conduct one for you. However, if you haven't hired a lawyer, then it will be up to you to collect evidence on your own.
When Do I Need to Conduct the Investigation?
As soon after your wreck as possible. You want to gather evidence to support your case before it "washes away." Remember, the point of an investigation is to prove that you weren't responsible for the wreck. If the other driver also denies fault, then it will be your word against theirs and your evidence will be vital to support your case.
What if the other driver admits they caused the wreck? There still needs to be an investigation to support the injury and compensation aspect of the claim. Despite what the other driver says, insurance companies have the power to deny or devalue your claim based on the evidence they're shown. However, often by the time you learn that the accident facts are being disputed, all of the cars involved have long been repaired and all of the witnesses have since forgotten the details of the accident they witnessed. It's best to come prepared with your evidence ready in case the insurance company decides to fight your claim.
Can I Conduct My Own Accident Investigation?
Typically, yes. I like to say that if your damages and injuries are relatively low (meaning you COULD pay for them out of pocket if you absolutely had to), then you should be able to conduct the accident investigation on your own without hiring a lawyer. However, it's important that you take your investigation seriously if you expect the insurance company to compensate you for your damages and injuries.
On the other hand, if you have serious damages and injuries, it's in your best interest to consult a personal injury attorney.
How To Conduct An Auto Accident Investigation
Here are some of the things we do to ensure that our clients' cases are positioned for successful results:
Document the damage to the vehicles.
All vehicles involved in a car wreck need to be photographed. Depending on the impact, sometimes this requires photos taken from every angle, including the underside of the vehicle. If a car is at a body shop or auto pound, it is important to take pictures before it is repaired or taken apart for scraps. If any blood is found in the car or if the airbags have been deployed, pictures of these features are also helpful.
Document the injuries.
Many of our clients have suffered broken bones, received stitches, undergone surgery, sustained bruising or have somehow suffered an injury which is clearly visible. It is extremely important to begin taking photographs of the injury immediately after the accident and every few days, weeks or months as the injury heals. You will always generally remember that you were in pain, but the memory of the details of what you went through will fade with time. Pictures will help you recall the recovery period. More importantly, photos will help the insurance company see exactly how hurt you were.
Investigate the scene.
Many times the accident scene provides many clues to solving the question of "Who was at fault?" All sorts of accident factors can be photographed or gathered at the scene if the investigation is done soon enough after the accident. We document factors such as skid marks, debris on the road, damaged items like signs or guardrails, speed limit signs, the pattern and timing of traffic control devices (stop lights), lighting, weather, curves in the road, obstructions and anything else that might shed light on the cause of the accident.
Obtain and analyze the accident report.
In Texas, the investigating police officer often fills out what is called a Texas Police Officer's Crash Report. These reports can provide all sorts of useful information for the claims process. Our firm obtains the accident report immediately after signing a contract with an accident victim. These reports provide names of witnesses, preliminary insurance information for the at-fault party, the investigating officer's opinion as to fault and injuries, diagrams of the scene, citations given, property damage and injury observation.
This is probably the most import part of an investigation if liability (responsibility) is in dispute. Witnesses can provide objective and credible testimonies explaining not only who was at fault, but also the speed of the involved vehicles, the severity of the crash and their observations of the involved drivers after the accident. Great care must be used when approaching a witness, as there are usually limited chances to interview witnesses before they grow tired of being involved (or hassled).
All witnesses have unique perspectives and a seasoned investigator knows how to ask the right questions before a witness becomes weary of helping out. Even a "hostile" witness can sometimes offer some sort of favorable testimony if he or she is approached in the correct manner.
It is extremely important to verify that whoever caused the wreck has valid liability insurance. Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that the other driver had expired insurance, but was able to present you or the investigating Police Officer with an insurance card which appeared to show some sort of valid insurance. How is this possible? While forged cards do exist, the most common way for drivers to fake having insurance is for the person to buy a six month policy, but only make the first month's payment to the insurance company. Consequently, for five more months, his or her insurance card allows them to appear to have insurance, but in reality that driver is just one of the many uninsured drivers on the road. Sometimes it takes insurance companies a few days to complete their investigation into whether or not there was insurance in place.
Other useful links:
- Determining Liability
- Obtaining Your Police Report
- Police Reports Available Online
- Police Department Phone Numbers
If you feel like hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to help you with your case, please give us a call. We will promptly begin the investigation to make sure the evidence in your case is protected. Please call us at 817-294-1900 or Contact Us Online.