Traffic accident incorrectly without fault?
November 18, 2009 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Maryland Accident, car totaled. Cops incorrectly say both drivers are at fault. Can anything be done?

My wife was in an accident yesterday while driving her fathers's car. Some very old lady (OL) in a 80's crown vic pulled directly into her head on. The Mrs is fine, but the since there were no witnesses at the scene the cops claimed both parties were at fault in their report.

This is bad because there's only liability on that car and it's totaled.

It's also completely false. The OL was in my wifes lane and hit her head on. The OL claimed she had a 'solid green light' and was cleared to go. One cop mentioned to my wife offhand that wasn't possible as her lane only has arrows (no solid lights at all). How this means she wasn't at fault is beyond me.

So no one was cited and the cops told my wife the insurance companies would figure it all out. I don't trust that for a second.

Some older questions about fault on Ask.Mefi say to ask the judge, but no one was cited so there's no court date. From my cynical POV, lazy cops throw up their hands to avoid paperwork and leave it to the insurance companies that will try very hard to screw my inlaws.

So my question is: How can I help my wife and her dad through this nonsense without them being screwed? Is there anything we should/shouldn't do? Bonus: if anyone knows about police procedure in MD can answer if this is typical procedure up here or something that should be reported?
posted by anti social order to Law & Government (9 answers total)
If the older woman is really at fault, find an aggressive lawyer who is willing to make her life hell by submitting requests to the court asking the court to have the old woman's faculties tested, etc.

Eventually she will either concede fault or tests will find that she ought not be on the road.

But this is likely much more expensive a route than letting the insurance companies settle it.
posted by dfriedman at 9:14 AM on November 18, 2009

Physical Evidence ?
Where was the impact debris ?
Any photographs taken, cars and location and light ?
Skid marks ?
There will be no Judge until injured party takes it to Court.
State law where the incident occurred will control.
Go over the report with a local attorney.
You may be able to have it corrected.
Elderly woman may have other incidents or health issues which will come to light if the matter is pursued.
IANYL , good luck
posted by Agamenticus at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2009

The Mrs is fine, but the since there were no witnesses at the scene the cops claimed both parties were at fault in their report.

Completely standard as far as I know. I was in the same situation. Since I had no documentation, I would have had very little chance in court.

Perhaps you may be better off if you have a signed (by your wife and the old lady) accident statement indicating the position and course of both cars, photographic evidence, etc. On my accident, the guy said he would not contest responsibility, but then changed his mind when he was at home. I was left with no recourse. It won't happen again, that's for sure.
posted by splice at 9:40 AM on November 18, 2009

I had more or less the same thing happen to me a number of years ago. A car pulled out from a side street and I didn't have time to react and we hit corner to corner. Initially the insurance company ruled that we were equally at fault, which is more or less the default as I understand it. Like you, I didn't have collision on my car, so I called my insurance company and explained the situation. They said other driver claimed that I had swerved out of my lane to hit him when we was stopped at the intersection. I asked them if that seemed like a more or less likely version of events than the one I'd outlined. After that, they took care of it and his insurance ended up paying for my body work.

The takeaway here, I think, is talk to your insurance company. Explain your side of the story. There is a chance this can be resolved in your favor without lawyering up or going to court.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 10:15 AM on November 18, 2009

I am a Maryland attorney. I can get you a referral. MeMail me.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:22 AM on November 18, 2009

In my accident of a few years ago the cop wrote down that I had run a red light. There were no witnesses to the accident and both me and the other driver insisted the other had done so. When I got the police report I contacted the police officer who wrote it insisting (nicely and calmly) that he had no evidence to make such a claim in the report. He said he was willing to amend the police report, which he did and I picked up the next day. See if you can get the police report amended. This was in NYC. (By the way, don't start with the premise that the police report is "false" instead go in with the premise that the police officer was mistaken. Nicely remind him that in the case of "he said" "she said" it is not their job to assign guilt. This will make it much more likely that he'll be interested in assisting you and amending the report). Good luck!
posted by Pineapplicious at 12:24 PM on November 18, 2009

What was the lane configuration? If it was head on for both cars, one of them was in the wrong lane. Was the old lady making a left turn and your wife proceeding straight through a green?
posted by gjc at 5:17 PM on November 18, 2009

Was the old lady making a left turn and your wife proceeding straight through a green?

Yes, this.

So it seems like this a normal occurrence and the best course of action is to talk with the insurance company after getting and reviewing the police report. If that fails, we can talk to a lawyer.

Thank you all for your thoughts and advice.
posted by anti social order at 12:54 PM on November 20, 2009

an FYI to the future: The insurance company decided to deny the claim without review, based on the no-fault listing on the traffic report. So we're retaining legal representation.
posted by anti social order at 1:03 PM on December 18, 2009

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