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Article: The Private Investigators Role in Accident Investigations

Date : 05/02/2007

Accident Investigations

If you or a loved one has been involved in any significant auto accident, you have felt the “impact” long after the actual crash. Many people do not understand the role of the police in accident investigation, and often are left bewildered and frustrated because they were issued a citation as a mutual party at fault.

If this has happened to you, you quickly saw your insurance rates were going to go up, points were to be added to your driving record, and you could face court costs, penalties, and mandatory classes. You could even be put through “depositions” by agents from insurance companies on both sides.

Let’s explore what role the police play in accident investigation, and how a private investigator with accident investigation experience can make a tremendous difference at the final outcome.

First, some basic definitions and how they apply in this case. An accident is defined as, “An unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance,” “An unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance,” or, “An unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured but for which legal relief may be sought.”[1]

A crash is defined as, “To break or go to pieces with or as if with violence and noise,” or, “To fall, land, or hit with destructive force.”[2]

Consider this hypothesis based on a comparison of the above definitions: When two or more vehicles meet at the same location creating damage and injury, it is most rarely an “unforeseen, unplanned, or unexpected happening.” One driver caused the crash: from a decision-making process and the implementation of that decision, a crash occurred. Catastrophic mechanical failure to a vehicle, e.g., a wheel falls off, a tire blows out at high speed, the steering fails, or a brake locks up, would fall under the definition of “accident.” However, if two vehicles meet, or a vehicle meets a pedestrian, at the same point while in motion, a crash takes place. The distinction between “accident” and “crash” is very important.

The next time you drive, watch the other vehicles around you closely. If you pay attention, it is unbelievable the way other people operate their vehicles. How many accidents have you avoided because you saw someone else’s errant driving? These people cause crashes. By their behavior and operation of the vehicle, the crash can’t be deemed “unforeseen, unplanned, or unexpected.” It was bound to happen, and it finally did.

Now what happens?

The police arrive to investigate the crash. The police are, by default, agents for the insurance companies. If fault is placed on a party, the insurance company must pay the claim to the other parties involved. But if fault is placed on both or all parties involved, it lessens the liability incurred by the insurance company, and you now have a deductible to pay before your vehicle will be repaired or replaced.

Now, if one were to study the traffic laws of your city, state, or country, you’d be hard pressed not to realize that anyone could be cited for a traffic violation just about anytime. A lot of states have “catch all” statutes such as “failure to reduce and control speed to avoid an accident.” Who would that apply to in a crash? Everyone! Seriously, if you hadn’t been out driving, you would not have had to “reduce and control your speed” to avoid the other driver who ran the red light.

Here is an n example case. A young driver was turning left at an intersection controlled by a traffic light. As most drivers know, the yellow light is usually out and turned red before the oncoming traffic finally stops; then you can make your turn. This client did the same. She waited until the light had turned red, then completed her turn, because she was already in the intersection committed to making the turn. She was nearly through the turn when a car came into the intersection without slowing down, through the red light, and clipped the front end of her vehicle. The other driver, who’d blatantly run the red light, was spun into the rocks on the far side of the intersection. The police cited BOTH drivers in that crash!

The police are charged with enforcing violations of the law and that’s what they did. However, the clients hired a private investigator because they believed the crash was clearly not their fault. The private investigators, who had extensive knowledge of the laws and investigating crashes, applied their skills, knowledge, and resources to show clear fault of the other driver by a preponderance of the evidence.

A reputable and licensed private investigator will impartially investigate the cases they are presented and report the facts as supported by the evidence discovered, even if it is not the outcome their client would desire. Private investigators are not defense attorneys or prosecutors. They are investigators, period.

By employing a private investigator with the proper credentials, experience, and applied knowledge, you may be able to overturn a traffic citation for a crash. Private investigation has come a long way from sneaking down rain-soaked streets to capture a cheating spouse. Private investigators have extensive and varied backgrounds and expertise. If you believe you’ve been wronged by a traffic crash investigation, consider hiring a private investigator to re-evaluate the facts of the case. Some of the things they will do is track down and interview witnesses, take photographs and measurements, time traffic speed and traffic lights, measure induced and contact damage, inspect the mechanical soundness of the vehicles involved, and methodically re-construct the events as precisely as possible to establish the facts of what caused the crash. The investment in a good investigator pay great dividends in court and with your insurance company.

[1] Merriam-Webster online; m-w.com

[2] Merriam-Webster dictionary online; m-w.com

Article written by:

James Stevenson, PI
Senior Case Analyst
International Counterintelligence Services, Inc.
May 2007

Click here to read about James Stevenson

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