How Do Fatal Car Accident Investigations Work in New York?
After a car accident in which someone suffers fatal injuries, police officers will arrive at the crash scene to investigate the accident. They’ll determine who may bear fault for the crash and whether any drivers may have criminal liability for causing the fatal accident.
In fatal car accident investigations, police will assess the crash scene, interview drivers, passengers, and bystanders, and document details of the accident, including weather, visibility, road and traffic conditions, and the vehicles involved in the crash. Police will prepare an accident report for a fatal car crash and evaluate whether to arrest the driver or drivers at fault for the crash.
Regardless of whether anyone is criminally prosecuted for causing the fatal accident, it may be possible to pursue a civil lawsuit and hold the at-fault driver financially accountable for causing a wrongful death. If you’ve lost a loved one to a fatal car crash in New York that was caused by another, contact The Tadchiev Law Firm, P.C., for a free case evaluation. We can discuss how our experienced attorneys can use the results of an auto accident investigation to pursue a legal claim for compensation.
Steps of a Fatal Car Accident Investigation
Police and private investigators follow specific steps when investigating a fatal car crash in New York. The evidence collected by law enforcement can be used to determine who may bear fault for the car crash.
Observe the Scene of the Crash
Police officers who arrive at the scene of a fatal car crash will begin an investigation by making initial observations of the scene. They’ll identify the vehicles involved, the occupants of those vehicles, and any eyewitnesses who saw the accident. Police will assess vehicle occupants for injuries to determine whether anyone requires emergency medical assistance.
Interview Drivers and Witnesses
After an initial assessment to determine the parties involved, officers will interview drivers, passengers, and any bystanders who may have witnessed the crash. Getting accounts from people involved in the accident and eyewitnesses will help police and investigators identify what happened in the crash.
Law enforcement and private investigators will also frequently follow up with drivers, passengers, and eyewitnesses. They’ll ask additional questions or obtain more detailed accounts of the crash. The shock of a serious car accident can make it difficult for those involved to provide a thorough account of what they witnessed.
Document Conditions that Led to the Crash
Police will document the crash scene to preserve evidence that can help determine who or what caused the accident. The types of details that officers typically document include:
- Weather conditions
- Lighting and visibility
- Traffic conditions
- Road conditions, including the presence of potholes or debris
- Traffic controls, including road signs and traffic lights
- Skid marks on the road
- Any visual obstructions to the driver’s line of sight
An investigation may involve obtaining copies of any surveillance or traffic camera footage of the accident or footage from dashcams installed in the vehicles involved in the accident. If police suspect alcohol or drug involvement, they may arrest drivers who appear intoxicated for alcohol or drug testing.
Investigators may work with accident reconstruction experts to review evidence from the crash scene to determine what happened in the accident and who or what may have caused the crash.
Document Vehicle Damage
Officers and investigators will document the vehicles involved in the accident. The specific damage each vehicle incurred can help police determine the sequence of events in the accident and how the vehicles collided. Police may obtain data from the vehicles’ onboard computers, such as vehicle speed, GPS position, acceleration/braking, steering inputs, and airbag deployment.
Create a Car Accident Police Report
New York requires law enforcement to complete a police accident report within ten days of a fatal car crash. The police accident report will contain information about the accident, including:
- The date, time, and location of the crash
- The names, addresses, ages, and driver’s license numbers of the drivers involved in the accident
- The number of occupants in each vehicle
- Any arrests or citations
- Injuries or fatalities suffered by drivers or passengers
- Descriptions of the vehicles involved in the accident, including vehicle year, make/model, and registration number
- Descriptions of damage to the vehicles
- A diagram of the accident
- A written description of the accident
- Apparent contributing factors for the accident
- Road and weather conditions at the time of the accident
Police accident reports often serve as evidence for insurance companies and legal teams in determining who may bear fault for a car accident. Police officers are trained to investigate motor vehicle accidents and bring a neutral perspective to describing the circumstances of the accident.
Identify Any Criminal Conduct
Police who respond to a fatal car accident may decide to arrest the driver who caused the crash. Although a fatal accident does not automatically mean that one of the drivers has criminal liability, police may arrest drivers when accidents involve:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Excessive speeding
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Reckless or aggressive driving, including street racing or road rage
- Driving an unroadworthy vehicle
If the police determine that one or more drivers may have violated the law and caused the accident, those drivers may face charges such as DUI in a fatal accident or vehicular manslaughter.
Regardless of whether police pursue criminal charges, your deceased loved one deserves justice if they died a wrongful death. New York law allows the personal representative or executor of a deceased person’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party that caused the fatal accident. Any compensation obtained through the wrongful death lawsuit would be shared by the accident victim’s spouse, children, and close relatives.
Call Our Queens Car Accident Lawyers for Help with Your Case
If your family has lost a loved one in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, contact The Tadchiev Law Firm in Queens. N.Y. for an explanation of your legal options. The Tadchiev Law Firm, P.C., offers a free case review. Let’s discuss your family’s legal options and how our knowledgeable Queens car accident lawyers can help.