How to Win a 'He Said, She Said' Car Accident Case

How to build your best car accident case when it's your word against the other driver's.

It is not unusual in car accident cases for one driver to say that the collision happened one way, and for the other driver to say something completely different.

“The light was green.”

“No, it was red.”

How do you prove fault in a car accident case when you say one thing, and the other driver says just the opposite? In this type of case, you usually have to rely on some combination of four major factors:

  • the credibility of each driver
  • the statements of the neutral witnesses, if there are any
  • the physical evidence, and
  • the police report.

Let's take a closer look at these four factors.

The Drivers' Credibility

Credibility equals believability. If the driver that hit you says the accident was your fault, but they don't appear to be credible, the jury may not believe their version of the story. But what makes someone credible (or not credible)?

Some factors that affect a jury’s thinking:

  • whether the person’s testimony at trial is consistent with his/her past testimony or statements (especially statements to the police officer about how the accident happened)
  • whether the person has a criminal record
  • whether the person’s version of events seems plausible
  • whether the person appears to be lying, and
  • the person’s demeanor and attitude.

What Do the Witnesses Say?

In any type of personal injury case, the jury is likely to think that the parties (i.e., the plaintiff and the defendant) are biased because they have a stake in the result. After all, the plaintiff is suing the defendant for money. But neutral witnesses are just that -- neutral; they have no stake in the result. Therefore, they can be the most important witnesses at the trial. Juries tend to believe the testimony of car accident witnesses, as long as they are credible.

For this reason, you should always try to get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone who might have witnessed part or all of your accident, or who might have witnessed the other driver’s behavior and actions before or after the actual collision.

So, if the other driver testifies that the accident was all your fault, but three neutral witnesses testify that the accident happened the way that you remember, and not the way that the other driver testified, then you will likely win the case.

What Does the Physical Evidence Show?

Physical evidence is real evidence, not testimony. Car accident evidence includes the vehicles involved in the accident and the accident scene itself. The physical evidence is often depicted at trial by photographs, where a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

If the physical evidence shows that the accident was most likely the other driver’s fault, it really doesn’t matter what his/her story is, the jury will most likely believe your side of the story. So, when the physical evidence favors the plaintiff, the defense attorney generally settles the case in the plaintiff’s favor. And when the physical evidence favors the defendant, then the plaintiff’s lawyer will usually have a long talk with the plaintiff about why he/she should take a very modest car accident settlement and get the case over with.

Gathering Physical Evidence -- Take Pictures Immediately

If you can, take pictures immediately after the car accident. If you have a camera or a camera phone, take as many pictures of both cars and the accident scene as you can, from as many angles as you can, before you leave the scene.

Walk down the street in the direction the defendant came from and take pictures of the intersection, the stop sign, and any skid marks in the street. Take pictures of the debris from the cars, if there was any. If you were with anyone, take pictures of that person standing at the exact point of the collision.

If you do not have a camera or are not physically able to take any pictures after your injury, have a friend or relative take pictures of the intersection and of your car as soon as possible, and certainly before you get your car repaired.

The Police Report

Many states have a law requiring that local law enforcement be informed if a car accident causes bodily injury or property damage that exceeds a certain amount. Either way, if you get hurt or suffer vehicle damage in a car accident and believe that the other driver was at fault, call the local police or sheriff's department and ask that an officer be dispatched to the scene so that a police report can be prepared.

Just remember that the testimony of police officers can go both ways. Police officers are neutral witnesses, as well as official witnesses. Jurors tend to believe them in car accident cases. Whatever the police officer writes down as your and the other driver’s stories, that is likely what the jury will believe. So make sure that you explain what happened very clearly and carefully to the responding officer so that he or she takes it down accurately and it is preserved in the police report.

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