Determining Fault in a No Contact Accident

Most of the time, when people think of motor vehicle accidents, they think of dramatic, head-on car crashes, or at least the idea of one or more vehicles colliding into one another. While this is the most commonly recognized type of accident, vehicle-to-vehicle contact or vehicle-to-pedestrian contact is not always necessary to cause an accident.

In some car crashes, your car may not even ever touch another car. However, if you had to swerve to avoid hitting a car or pedestrian, causing you to lose control of your vehicle, you may be able to recover compensation for the damages you and your property sustained if the damage was caused by the negligence of another party. Though this is possible, it can oftentimes be difficult to prove fault, especially if you do not have any witnesses to testify as to the events leading up to the accident.

What is a No Contact Accident in California?

A no contact accident is an accident involving one or more cars in which the cars do not actually make contact with one another at any time during the accident. Rather, these accidents may occur when a driver loses control of the vehicle at the fault of themselves, swerves to avoid hitting another car, or due to an outside factor, such as weather. The most common causes of no contact accidents include snow- or ice-covered roadways; however, they may also occur due to swerving to avoid hitting an animal or losing control of the vehicle due to distracted driving.

How is Fault Decided in A No Contact Accident?

In the State of California, fault in automobile accidents is determined based on a standard of pure comparative negligence. This means that a party’s ability to recover damages from an accident will be reduced based on the degree to which their own actions contributed to causing the accident and the resulting damage.

When two vehicles make contact with each other in an accident, it is generally quite easy to determine fault simply by examining the damage on the vehicles involved and analyzing the angle of impact, extent of damage, transfer of paint, and force of impact to get a picture of what occurred during the accident and, in turn, help determine which party was at fault.

In a no-contact accident, this evidence is not available, so all other evidence must be examined even more carefully to get a complete view of the events leading up to, during, and after the accident in question. This evidence may include:

1. Eyewitness accounts of the accident. 

 One of the greatest assets to proving fault in a no-contact accident is testimony from witnesses who saw the events leading up to the accident firsthand. This may be an integral part in proving the events leading up to and during the accident. A witness may be:

 another person involved in the accident, for example a passenger who was in your vehicle at the time of the accident;

  • another driver who was passing by at the time of the accident and witnessed the event;
  • a pedestrian who was passing by at the time of the accident and witnessed the event.

Locating these types of witnesses has the potential to dramatically increase the likelihood of you being awarded the compensation you deserve.

2. Photos of damage to the other vehicle.

Even if no contact was made between your vehicle and the vehicle at fault, documentation of the damage to your car and the damage to their vehicle may be puzzle pieces that fit together, along with other circumstantial evidence, to illustrate the events that led to and occurred during the accident.

3. Traffic cameras

You may not be so lucky to have video footage of your accident but, if you do, this evidence could be golden. If traffic camera footage shows another vehicle running a red light and you quickly swerved to avoid crashing into them, you will likely be entitled to damages as a result of their negligent actions.

Traffic camera footage may also reveal driver conduct preceding the accident, like swerving or showing signs of intoxication, which could demonstrate that the other driver was driving negligently.

I’ve Been Involved in a No Contact Accident. What do I do Next?

While it may be tempting to try to resolve your no contact accident on your own with the insurance companies rather than work with an attorney, you could end up regretting this choice as it may very well cost you your case. Determining fault in no contact accidents involves a very fact-intensive inquiry and will likely require the opinion and testimony of expert witnesses. To recover the compensation you may be entitled to, you should begin by seeking the counsel of an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer.

At Silverthorne Attorneys, we have successfully represented countless clients in accidents that did not involve vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-pedestrian contact. Our legal team offers free and no-obligation consultations to review and discuss your case.

Call our experienced injury lawyers in Orange County today at (949) 234-6034 to get your questions answered and discuss your possible compensation eligibility. Silverthorne Attorneys has offices in Huntington Beach, Anaheim and Ladera Ranch and serves courts throughout Southern California.