Many factors can contribute to a car accident, but driver negligence takes the lead. And when that accident leads to the loss of life, it's natural to want to hold someone accountable. If you suspect driver negligence in your situation, here are a few questions your attorney may ask about the offending driver in order to prove negligence in a wrongful death case.
Did the driver fail to yield right of way?
This happens when a driver ignores a yield sign, fails to yield at a flashing yellow or red light, turns left without paying attention to oncoming traffic, merges onto the highway aggressively, ultimately cutting you off, pulls out into traffic from a private road or driveway, or neglects to stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk.
Attorneys can establish the failure to yield right of way by examining police reports, photographs of the vehicles, witness testimony, and video footage if cameras were nearby. In some situations, your attorney may consult with specialists who will examine the scene of the accident and form a "re-enactment" of what happened.
Was the driver following too closely?
Tailgating can lead to rear-end collisions, which make up a third of all traffic accidents. And provided that the victim did not slam on their brakes and ultimately cause the accident, then damages can be sought.
Again, the wrongful death attorney will work with the accident report, witnesses, and experts to prove that a "reasonable and prudent" distance was not maintained by the driver. This is defined by one car length for every 10 mph driven. So if the cars were traveling at 55 mph, there should have been a distance of five and half cars between the two.
Was the driver intoxicated or under the influence?
Alcohol intoxication and being under the influence of drugs are big contributors to accidents. But proving it was a case of negligence will require the help of an attorney. Legal blood alcohol levels (BAC) vary by state. So if the accident occurred in Alabama, for example, and the 20-year-old driver's blood alcohol level was 0.02, they can certainly be found negligent. However, if the driver was 30 years of age with the same BAC, they may not have broken any laws.
If the driver was under the influence of illegal or legal prescription drugs, it can be revealed through blood tests. Police officers usually order these tests if they suspect illicit drug use, and the wrongful death attorney will use these results in your loved one's case.
Was the driver speeding?
The number of fatalities due to speeding has decreased over the past decade, but it still remains a large percentage of automobile accidents. If you suspect or know that the driver was speeding when the accident occurred, this information will be important. The attorney can look at the police report and talk to witnesses, but sometimes examining the vehicle for the extent of damage can reveal evidence that will prove crucial for the case.
Was the driver distracted?
Making phone calls and sending text messages are probably two of the more well-known types of driver distractions, but they aren't the only ones. Other examples include caring for a pet inside the vehicle, putting on lipstick, and even shaving.
So how does an attorney go about proving one of these distractions? Examining the cell phone and phone records and matching calls and texts sent to the time of the accident are typically sufficient. But with other types of distractions, investigative measures can often reveal proof. These can include witnesses either inside the car or at the scene, the presence of a razor, or an open lipstick container found on the floor. In other situations, all it takes is a little savvy police work.
For example, one couple in Florida pulled out all the stops to trick authorities into thinking that the woman—who was shaving while driving—was not the one behind the wheel when she rear-ended another vehicle. When the passenger side airbag deployed and left burn marks on her ex-husband's chest, however, authorities knew that she was the one driving and not her ex.