When you are the only driver involved in a collision, the default is usually to assume that you're fully at fault for the collision. After all, there's no other driver with a damaged car to blame the accident on! When you're found to be fully liable for a collision, then all associated damages are your responsibility or the responsibility of your insurance company. If the damages are substantial and exceed your insurance limit, this can get costly -- and may result in an increase in your insurance premiums. Here's a little secret, though: there are some scenarios where a driver involved in a single-car collision may not really be fully at-fault for that collision. If any of these three factors apply to your accident, it might be worth your while to hire an attorney to argue that the accident is at least partially not your fault.
Did another driver's actions lead to your crash, even though the other driver did not also crash?
If another driver's actions made it difficult or impossible for you to avoid a collision, then that driver may be found to be partially or fully at fault for the accident -- even though they did not ultimately crash. Imagine, for example, you're approaching an intersection with a green light. Suddenly, you see that a driver is running a red light and coming towards you. You swerve to avoid hitting their car and end up hitting a telephone pole. The other driver proceeds through the red light and speeds away.
In the scenario described above, you would not have crashed were it not for the other driver running the red light. Thus, the other driver can be named partially or fully at fault. Actually collecting damages from this other driver can be difficult if they fled the scene. But, your lawyer can help you search for witnesses who may have seen the accident and recorded the license plate number. Intersection cameras and cameras owned by businesses in the area may also have footage that can serve as evidence.
Did a malfunctioning traffic signal or improperly located sign contribute to your crash?
If you only crashed because a signal was not operating properly or because a sign that should have been there was not present, then the municipality responsible for maintaining the signs and signals might be partially or wholly at fault. For example, imagine you go off the road and hit a fire hydrant because you failed to slow down enough to make the sharp, 90-degree bend in the road. Upon further investigation, you find that there was a sign warning you to slow down approaching the curve, but that it had been knocked over for the past month. The municipality could be found to be at-fault for your accident because they acted negligently by failing to repair the sign in a timely manner.
Did a manufacturer error lead to a car malfunction that led to your crash?
As a driver, you're expected to keep your car in good repair. Thus, if your car breaks down and this leads to a crash, that crash is generally assumed to be your fault. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If you and your lawyer can prove that the breakdown that caused your crash occurred due to an error on the part of your car's manufacturer, then the manufacturer may be named at least partially at-fault for the collision.
Imagine, for example, that you're driving your 1-month-old car down the street when suddenly the axle breaks, causing you to lose control and hit a tree. If it can be proven that the axle broke because it was made improperly, the manufacturer might be named at-fault for the crash and related damage. Proving that a manufacturer is at fault for a crash is very difficult. Often, your lawyer will approach this scenario by looking for other drivers who have suffered similar breakdowns. If the same break happens multiple times in cars of the same make and model, this is pretty good evidence that the manufacturer is making dangerous mistakes.
If you suspect that someone else's actions played a role in your crash, don't be silent about it. Speak with a car accident attorney to determine whether it's worthwhile to take that party to court and ensure they're held responsible for their actions.