Venus Williams, famous tennis player who lost in the finals of Wimbledon on July 15, 2017, had been involved in a fatal car accident a few weeks before the competition. The accident occurred in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and she was initially blamed for it but after review of camera footage, the police officially cleared her of fault. That didn’t matter to the attorneys for wife of the man who died in the crash. On June 30, 2017, Linda Barson, wife of Jerome Barson who died, filed a lawsuit against Williams seeking an unspecified amount of damages for wrongful death. Attorneys for both parties are claiming the other driver was at fault. When both parties of a car accident dispute fault, what happens next is likely an ugly lawsuit.
This accident happened in Florida, a no-fault state, so the rules are different there. If it had happened in Georgia, then Barson would have to contend with a defense that she was 50 percent or more at fault. OCGA §§ 51-11-7 and 51-12-33 states that total liability will be reduced by a plaintiff’s percentage of fault, as long as plaintiff is less than 50 percent at fault. According to the known facts, it may be that both parties are 50/50 at fault. In such cases, the details matter more than in any other auto accident case, so what do you do when both parties are disputing fault and both parties on the face of it appear to have a case? You find yourself the most qualified attorney who has the resources to conduct a thorough investigation.
PROVING FAULT IN A CAR ACCIDENT CASE IN GEORGIA
Evidence is key to finding fault. The smallest details will matter. Gathering, preserving, and interpreting the evidence must be completed immediately while the evidence is fresh and, hopefully, not lost. There are several basic steps to uncover the details necessary to prove fault:
- Obtain reports. You need police reports, medical records, auto reports. The details of these reports matter and will be interpreted in light of other collected evidence.
- Gather physical evidence. Pictures are one of the primary sources of physical evidence as is camera footage, when available. In the Williams’ case, it is the camera footage that made all the difference to the police officially stating she was not at fault. But just because the police says it does not relieve the person of legal responsibility. Williams’ insurance provider, if it had been in Georgia, would likely deny a claim, which would then prompt a lawsuit, and a judge or jury may find other evidence that indicates fault. Williams is not yet off the hook.
- Interview Witnesses. If there are any witnesses, they should be interviewed as soon as possible so that their knowledge and perspective of the accident is fresh in their minds. The longer you wait for the interview, the less clear the memory until it’s no longer credible.
- Conduct a forensics investigation. This step is very important. Detailed investigating, testing, and calculating are done to determine specifics about an accident. In Williams’ case, the defense attorney claims Jerome Barson had not been wearing a seatbelt, and the discovery of this allegation was the result of a forensics investigation.
When both parties of a car accident dispute fault, having a thorough investigation to uncover crucial evidence is key. Having an attorney who knows how to go about this process is, therefore, all the more important.
FINDING THE RIGHT ATTORNEY FOR YOUR CAR ACCIDENT CASE IN GEORGIA
If an insurance company believes its insured was not at fault, it will deny your claim. If the matter goes to court, you may be barred from recovery if a jury finds you are 50 percent or more at fault. Finding the right attorney for your car accident case is important. You need to do your research; your recovery is dependent on it. The right attorney will be one who is experienced and knowledgeable, who cares, who communicates, and who understands the auto insurance industry and laws involving auto accidents and has the experience to put that experience to work for you.