Who May Be Liable for a Car Crash?  How We Determine Who is Liable.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car crash or vehicle accident, it’s important that a careful investigation be conducted to determine all those who may be legally liable.

At Ressler & Tesh, we have decades of experience representing injured clients, as well as families who have lost a loved one due to the negligence of others.  During this period, we have recovered millions of dollars for our clients and their families.

This page explains how we are meticulous in identifying all those who may be liable in car and vehicle crashes.

Accident Scene Investigation

One of the reasons that it is so critical to retain an experienced attorney soon after a vehicle crash is so that an investigation of the accident location can be undertaken as soon as possible; ideally, before changes are made to the accident area and before other conditions change.  In some cases, after a car or other vehicle crash has taken place, municipalities will make changes – such as installing different signs, moving traffic control devices, and even trimming shrubbery and trees – in order to make an accident scene safer.

While any safety changes are commendable, when such changes are made before an investigation has taken place, critical evidence may be destroyed.  Signs and lights that may have been blocked by vegetation are no longer obscured, making it more difficult to prove liability.  Non-functioning traffic control devices may have been repaired.  If a city or town may be partially liable for a vehicle crash because of poor maintenance, in addition to taking actions to make the crash scene safer, such actions may also serve to lessen liability because the actual conditions at the time of the crash may be unknown.

Additionally, in the process of cleaning and repairing a crash scene, key evidence can be destroyed.  Traffic lights and control devices may be moved to a new location.  Weather and rain may cause skid marks to be destroyed.  Damaged guardrails that show the point of impact of a vehicle may be replaced.

Through a prompt crash investigation, we and our experts will be able to assess and carefully document the crash scene, ideally before major changes have been made.  We will also want to obtain all available repair records in seeking to prove how dangerous conditions have been rectified.

Preserving Totaled Vehicles and Event Recorders (“Black Boxes”)

Typically, when a crash occurs, vehicles that are totaled are sent to a scrap yard where they are destroyed.  We will typically want to get an injunction against any such vehicle destruction to that we can carefully examine all vehicles involved in an accident by accident reconstructionists.

Through a careful examination by such experts, many aspects of a crash can be ascertained, such as the positioning of the vehicles at the time of impact.  While drivers and witnesses may not remember precise details such as the vehicle positioning, the vehicles themselves will show the truth of the impact.

Today, most vehicles have what are commonly known as “black boxes”, which are more accurately referred to as “event recorders.”  Event recorders record matters such as speed at the time of a crash and other aspects concerning the functioning of a vehicle at the time of a crash.

Because totaled vehicles are typically destroyed fairly quickly after receipt by a scrap yard, time is of the essence in securing an injunction to preserve these vehicles.

Using Software and Computer-Aided Technologies

When event recorder information and other information such as the length and direction of skid marks, the contact location of a vehicle with poles, signs, or guardrails, and other information is entered into computer software, such software can often be used to simulate the manner in which a crash occurred.  As a result, this software can be used as evidence to support liability theories, particularly in cases where there may not be any witnesses to a crash.

Determining Road Design Defects

In some cases, municipalities may be liable for road design defects, such as placing “blind” intersections where drivers entering onto a road cannot see oncoming traffic before having to cross or merge onto a road, or through the placement of traffic signals in locations where they cannot be adequately seen.

There are many reasons that a road may be dangerous.  If we believe that a municipality is at fault, we will retain experts to provide insight and opinions as to whether (and how) the municipality may be liable.

Bars, Restaurants, and Eating Establishments that Over-Serve Intoxicated Patrons

Washington State has adopted what are known as “dram shop” laws, which impose civil liability upon bars restaurants, and eating establishments that over serve intoxicated patrons who then cause crashes, as well as anyone who serves alcohol to a minor who then causes a crash while driving drunk.

Learn more about “Dram Shop Liability in Washington State

Helping You Recover from All Those Responsible for Your Car or Vehicle Crash

In order to obtain a full recovery, it is important that a meticulous investigation be taken after a crash has occurred.  Our firm is experienced in engaging in the detailed investigations so that liability can be established against all those who are legally liable.

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