In Kansas, fault in an auto accident case is typically determined by reviewing the police report and determining if the facts recorded by the police are accurate and clear. For example, the facts help determine who had the right of way in an intersection or who did what in causing the collision. Most of the time, with the police report, it’s quite clear. For instance, in a rear-ender, where one vehicle collides with a stopped vehicle, it is pretty obvious the driver in the vehicle that was moving was at fault and the driver in the stopped vehicle was not at fault. Those cases are quite easy. However, it is the open intersection cases where fault can be difficult. In open intersection cases, you have to have witnesses to determine who was at fault. Often, witnesses can be those in the vehicles, people who were at the intersection or even people who live in that area. All of these witnesses can perhaps testify as to who was in the right of way or who was in the intersection first and, therefore, who was at fault in causing the accident.
In Kansas, the driver who was at the intersection first has the right of way over the person entering the intersection second. If the two vehicles enter the intersection at the same time, then the vehicle on the right has the right of way. Oftentimes, in stop light accidents, one driver will claim that they had a green light. In this type of event, the eye witnesses are critical. Photos play a large part in the practice of personal injury law. Photos taken by the police officer right after the accident need to be carefully examined to determine certain things, such as, point of impact and where the final resting place of the vehicles were. This will determine the nature of the collision, the collision forces, and this allows the extrapolation of the relative speeds of the two vehicles. All these things help determine who was at fault in an accident.
Kansas is a comparative fault state so it is very important to determine who was at fault in causing an accident. More specifically, comparative fault in Kansas is called modified comparative fault, which means it’s not purely comparative fault. In this state, you have to prove that you as a driver were less than 50 percent at fault; otherwise, if fault is 50-50, you would recover nothing. If you were just as much at fault as the other driver, then you recover nothing. However, if you are less than 50 percent at fault, then you can still recover damages. The percentage of fault is applied to the damages that you have suffered, that is, the percentage of your damages that you can recover based upon the other driver’s percentage of fault.
For example, Missouri law has pure comparative fault where all you have to do is prove the other driver was at fault. If you prove the other driver was 10 percent at fault, you can recover 10 percent of your damages even if you were 90 percent at fault. Kansas, however, is a modified comparative fault state, therefore, fault becomes more difficult and it’s very important that that issue be carefully analyzed very early on in a case by a competent lawyer.
If the damage is warranted and the accident can be reconstructed, provided there is enough evidence, an accident reconstructionist can be brought in to prove who was at fault. However, it can be very expensive and time consuming to do so. Additionally, it is something that needs to be done relatively early on in the process so that evidence is preserved. For example, if you don’t have pictures of the skid marks, you may lose. The ability to establish a particular set of marks proves the vehicle that caused the collision hit the brakes for a short period of time when they should have otherwise applied brakes earlier. Although they are not used on a lot of cases, accident reconstruction experts can be used in Kansas to prove fault.