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How Do Police Prove At-Fault Drivers Were Distracted Before Crashes?

June 7, 2021

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Getting compensation after a crash usually requires proving that the other driver was negligent or breaking a traffic law. Doing so can be a challenge if the crash wasn’t recorded on a dashcam or intersection camera. But police can often discover fault by examining evidence, such as the position and location of the damage on vehicles, skid marks on the road, sobriety tests, and witness statements.

However, there’s one extremely common factor in crashes that’s difficult to prove: distraction. Distraction can take many forms while driving, including “rubbernecking” at other crashes, reaching for items in the glove box or passenger seat, and using a smartphone. Proving that a driver was distracted in the moments before a crash is important for assigning fault, but how do police do it?

The At-Fault Driver Admits to Being Distracted

Car accidents are stressful and traumatic. Drivers are often thankful to avoid serious injuries and death, even if they’re at fault. That means they may not be considering potential consequences or liability after crashes, especially when talking to police.

Law enforcement officers who are dispatched to crash scenes know how to quickly analyze evidence and determine what happened. Part of that involves speaking to both drivers and asking questions. In some cases, distracted drivers will describe exactly what they were doing in the moments before their crashes, including using their smartphones, reaching for items, or any other distracting behaviors.

The At-Fault Driver’s Distraction Was Witnessed by Others

At-fault drivers don’t always admit to being distracted, and in some cases, they may be unable to due to the severity of their injuries or memory loss of the moments just before the crash. When that happens, police often rely on witness statements to help prove fault and potential distraction.

Witnesses who may have seen a driver engage in distractions just before a crash include people in other vehicles, pedestrians, and the driver and passengers in the vehicle they struck. Witness statements aren’t always definitive proof of distraction, but they can serve as a good starting point for more investigation.

The At-Fault Driver’s Distraction Was Caught on Camera

Dashcams and intersection cameras are common now, and they can help prove drivers were distracted just before they crashed. In some cases, at-fault drivers may have dashcams that implicate them in crashes, whether it’s because they record facing both the road and inside their vehicles, or because they capture audio that suggests the drivers weren’t focused on the road ahead.

Passengers may even record videos or take pictures immediately before crashes that can prove their drivers were distracted. For example, some crashes occur when passengers livestream or record themselves for social media. These videos and pictures can be invaluable for proving distraction in auto accident cases.

The At-Fault Driver’s Phone Shows Activity Just Before the Crash

Police officers can often pinpoint when crashes occurred down to the minute. And because smartphones keep time stamps on phone calls and text messages, police can check the phones of both drivers to determine if they were chatting or texting in the moments before their accidents.

If the at-fault driver’s phone was damaged or broken in the crash, police can consult their phone records to find evidence of phone calls, text messages, or even internet usage just before the accident occurred.

The Type of Crash Suggests Distraction Was a Factor

Certain types of crashes can suggest that a driver was distracted more than others. For example, rear-end crashes are among the most common for distracted drivers. That’s because they may not notice that the drivers in front of them slowed down or stopped while their eyes were off the road.

Other common distracted driving crashes include failing to stop at stop signs, drifting into adjacent lanes, and pulling out in front of other drivers.

The Police Don’t Always Get It Right—But Our Lawyers Can Help.

Law enforcement in Ohio does its best to determine who is at fault and why they’re at fault after crashes, but they don’t always have time or resources to conduct exhaustive investigations. That means that distraction isn’t always proven or even considered after crashes. When that happens, innocent victims may struggle to get compensation for their accident-related expenses, as there may be little to no proof that the other driver was fully at fault.

At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, our attorneys can investigate your crash to find out if the other driver was distracted before the collision occurred. We’ll analyze the same evidence that’s available to police, but with more time, experience, and resources at our disposal. We’ll also look into additional evidence, including staging a reconstruction of your accident and consulting with crash scene experts.

Our Ohio auto accident lawyers are ready to prove the other driver’s negligence and get you the compensation you’re owed. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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