Determining liability in ambiguous accidents can be a challenging process in Ohio. When an accident occurs and it is not immediately clear who is at fault, all parties involved may dispute responsibility. This often leads to complicated legal battles as victims seek compensation for injuries and damages.
Under Ohio law, liability generally falls on the negligent party who failed to act with reasonable care. However, in ambiguous accidents where fault cannot be clearly established, the law provides guidance on how liability should be determined. Some key factors include:
If one party was violating traffic laws, like speeding or running a red light, they are more likely to be deemed negligent. Police reports and eyewitness testimony can provide evidence of violations. An experienced attorney can help analyze the testimony and evidence to build a strong case around any traffic infractions. They may also hire accident reconstruction experts to analyze details like skid marks and calculate speeds to prove violations occurred.
Position of Vehicles
The positioning of the vehicles after the accident may give clues as to who hit whom. Forensic analysis by accident reconstruction experts can help determine each party’s location and movements leading up to and at the point of impact. For example, if one car rear-ended another, it suggests the trailing car was at fault for following too closely and not stopping in time. The angle of impact can also indicate movements, like whether a car crossed the center line. Detailed diagrams and models of the accident scene can visually show each car’s positioning.
Poor weather, obstructed views, and other hazardous conditions may excuse a party from full liability if they acted as cautiously as possible under the circumstances. Icy roads, heavy rain or fog, overgrown vegetation blocking views of intersections, and other hazards make accidents more likely even when drivers take precautions. Evidence like weather reports and proof of overgrown plants can be gathered to show these conditions were factors beyond the parties’ control.
In some cases, liability may be split between parties who were both partly at fault. For example, in a sideswipe accident, both drivers’ failure to allow enough space could result in shared liability. Evidence of risky driving behavior prior to the accident, like texting while driving, could also lead to a determination of shared fault.
Preexisting Injuries or Defects
If one party had a preexisting medical condition that contributed to the accident, they may share liability. A good example is where a driver had heart problems and then had a heart attack behind the wheel, which suggests they took an unreasonable risk by driving. The same applies for manufacturing or design defects in vehicles that played a role. Documentation of such preexisting conditions and defects from medical providers or mechanics can impact liability.
Insurance Company Investigations
When liability cannot be definitively determined, insurance companies get involved and will conduct their own investigations. They may consult accident reconstruction experts, interview witnesses again, or seek additional evidence to protect their policyholders’ interests. They may even go to court to establish each party’s negligence through litigation.
Settling these disputes often requires compromise. It may end up that liability gets split 50/50 or proportionally between the parties. Courts and insurance companies may also order structured settlements, where compensation gets paid out to victims over time rather than in a lump sum. We can negotiate with insurance companies to secure the largest settlement possible, which may require concessions on both sides.
Key Liability Factors
In addition to the evidence collected, certain liability factors often prove decisive. Traffic violations like speeding work strongly against the driver violating the law. Hazardous conditions can partially excuse a driver’s role. Demonstrating the other party took a specific unsafe action, like swerving suddenly, helps establish fault when evidence is limited. Preexisting conditions or vehicle defects also factor against the impaired party.
We develop creative case strategies to prove liability when an accident is ambiguous. Some approaches include:
- Using FOIA requests to obtain past complaints or inspection reports against the other party, like prior speeding tickets proving a pattern of negligence.
- Calling specialists to testify, like accident reconstruction experts who can analyze physical evidence.
- Hiring investigators to interview all potential witnesses to find contradictory statements.
- Researching past similar cases and liability determinations to set a precedent.
- Presenting enlarged accident scene diagrams and 3D renderings to clearly show what occurred.
Pursuing fair compensation can be highly complex when there is uncertainty around who holds responsibility. We have offices in 32 cities across 19 states, including Cincinnatti and Cleveland, so contact us today.
Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597 to find out more.