Guidelines for Assessing Liability of Parties in Traffic Accidents
If you have been involved in a traffic accident, the other party may dispute and deny any responsibility for the accident. You might argue the same way and you are considering bringing a claim against the other party. What are your chances of success, and what is the proportion of damages you will be liable for? This article sets out some generic guidelines for assessing liability of parties involved in a traffic accident.
Where the Facts of the Accident are Undisputed
Where the facts of the accident are undisputed, it would be much easier to reach an out of Court settlement between the two parties. The parties involved should reach an agreement by splitting liability based on the facts of the case – for example, who was at fault in causing the accident, and whether there were other contributing factors. The private settlement should be recorded in writing and be signed by an independent witness. Nonetheless, you should still inform your insurer of the accident but indicate that you are intending to negotiate for a private settlement.
Where the Facts of the Accident are Disputed
Where the parties involved present conflicting sets of facts for the accident, and there is genuine doubt if one party should carry more blame than the other, it is recommended that the liability be divided on a 50-50 ratio. This is where parties desire for an early settlement and do not wish to drag out the case for long. Nonetheless, it is still open to you to bring the case to Court to allow the Judge to determine the liabilities of parties. This would require more time and cost to be expended.
Where the case is brought to Court, it will be left to the Judge to decide if one party is fully responsible for the accident, or whether all parties involved are partially responsible. The Judge will do so by assessing the evidence provided and determine if one party’s version of events is more credible than the other. In coming to his/her decision, the Judge will examine:
- The photographs taken at the scene of the accident
- Police sketch plan of the scene of the accident
- Any video footage caught relating to the accident
- Photographs showing the damage to the vehicles
- Any witnesses’ statements/recount of events
- Whether the Traffic Police has taken action against, or if the Court has convicted one of the parties for the commission of a traffic offence. If this element is satisfied in your case, it is advisable that you do not dispute liability, as it is likely that the Traffic Police or Court would have convincing evidence that allowed them to arrive at their decision. This evidence can be used in Court in assessing liability
Do note that this is a non-exhaustive list of factors. Ultimately, every case will turn on its facts and circumstances. There could be unique factors or nuances present in every case that might affect the Judge’s decision. After the Judge has passed judgment relating to apportionment of liability, he/she will then determine the quantum of damages to be awarded, based on the respective liabilities of the parties.
A 50-50 outcome at trial where facts of the case are disputed is highly unlikely. This is because the Court will grant judgment to the side whose evidence is found to be more credible. Hence you should carefully consider your options before commencing any action. If you require advice on the next step you should take in making a claim after an accident, you can approach one of our experienced lawyers for help.
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