Documenting Your Claim: The Other Driver
The at-fault driver can play a big role in your claim’s value. You need to think and remember who the other driver was based on his/her behavior at the scene of the accident. Was she a sweet, stay at home Mom, or a disheveled male with a temper. The adjuster has already spoken to his/her insured so they will have a judgment on him/her already. At the very least, you need to think about:
- How the other driver acted at the scene? Apologetic, unremorseful, mad, belligerent, nervous?
- How the other driver appeared at the scene? Sober, disheveled, under the influence, nervous, professional?
- Comments made. Apologies, explanations, other facts that help your case.
The biggest value driver, speaking in terms of how juries perceive average personal injury claims, is the credibility of you and the at-fault driver. Many cases come down to “he said, she said” and the crucial part of your case is who to believe.
Get The Citation & Disposition
You also want to obtain a copy of the other driver’s citation and how it was resolved. If he paid it, he has admitted the accident was his fault. In admitted liability cases this will not be an issue. But in cases where the adjuster is saying you were at fault, this will be a key piece of evidence to swing the claim in your favor.
To get a copy of the citation, find out the court in your area handling the citation. Most of the time this will be a city court, a recorder’s or municipal court, or a magistrate court. Once you know which court has jurisdiction over the citation, call that court’s clerk’s office to speak to a clerk. Using the citation # on your copy of the police report, ask the Clerk what the “final disposition” of the citation was. If the other driver pled guilty or paid the fine, then you want a copy. Ask the Clerk how to get a copy. A lot of times the Clerk will be willing to fax or email you a copy. Worst case scenario, see if you can send him a letter/”open records request” with a self addressed stamped envelope to return a copy.
Driving Record & Tickets
Some states allow residents to request and obtain another person’s driving history report from the DMV. This report will document all the tickets a driver has received for a period of time, usually 3, 5, and 10 years. If your state allows this, it is definitely worth the postage to get a copy. If you find out the other driver has a history of reckless driving this will increase the value of your claim.
In addition to remembering how the other driver presented (looked and acted) at the scene of the car accident, there is some limited investigation you can do in terms of looking in to the other driver. Many states have a public website where you can look up convicted felons. Run the other driver through the system and see if he/she has a criminal record. Misdemeanors are a little harder. In many states you will have to figure out which county the driver lives in and call that county’s solicitor or legal office that handles criminal cases. Usually the administrative staff will be able to run the person’s name and date of birth to see if the driver has any criminal history in that state. States have different rules of evidence as to whether a person’s criminal record is admissible, but for purposes of settling your claim all you care about is showing the adjuster what kind of person they are going to have to defend.