Personal injury Library

How Do Third-Party Car Accident Defenses Work?

Here's how the "mystery car" defense tactic works in a Texas car accident case:

Defendants and their insurance carriers often try to blame some third party for your accident. If you've ever heard the phrase "the dog ate my homework" or "the Devil made me do it," then you know what the third-party defense is. Basically, it's when the person who really did something bad alleges that someone somewhere else is actually responsible.

Where this tactic gets downright deceitful is when the driver who caused your car accident (or their insurance carrier) try to blame the accident on a car that only they saw and one who conveniently fled the scene, leaving no trace. Around our office, we cynically refer to this as the "mystery car" defense.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What is the mystery car defense and how does it impact my car accident case?
  • Why would a car insurance provider try to shift blame onto an unknown vehicle?
  • What are some examples of when this defense is legitimate?
  • What will my attorney do to defeat this defense?

Why the ability to blame a 3rd party exists.

It's only fair to a defendant that he or she have the chance to prove that they weren't responsible for your accident. Just like in criminal cases, everyone gets the chance to make their argument to a jury to prove their innocence. The reason for this is obvious; no one ever wants to be unfairly blamed for something that wasn't truly their fault. Unfortunately, however, by giving the wrongfully accused the opportunity to defend themselves, so too is that opportunity made available those who truly are to blame to argue that it's all a big misunderstanding.

Below, we'll provide example of where an accident can be completely someone else's fault, or just partially:

  • Completely someone else's fault: You're sitting at a stoplight, and a car driven by Jake plows into the back of you. If it turns out that Jake's car had been likewise rear-ended into your car, then it's not Jake's fault. He can rightly say, "Don't sue me, sue the guy who pushed my car into yours."
  • Partially someone else's fault: You're traveling down the highway, and Jake swerves into you, knocking you off the road. It turns out that Jake and his girlfriend have been having an argument, and his girlfriend smacked Jake right before he swerved into you. While still likely partially Jake's fault, he might be able to blame his girlfriend.

The "Mystery Car" version of this defense.

It is incredibly common in our practice to hear an insurance adjuster argue that some supposed car (which we refer to as a "mystery car") was actually to blame for an accident.

For instance, we were hired by a woman who suffered neck injuries and other injuries when her car was rear-ended by a pickup truck. The driver of the pickup truck told his insurance company that he was actually stopped when the accident occurred and that another car "came out of nowhere" and hit him from behind, forcing him into the back of our client's car. Then, he claimed, the mystery car sped off before anyone could get a good look at it. He even had damage to the rear of his truck, which ostensibly proved that he had been rear-ended.

It was a bogus argument and we ultimately defeated it using simple geometry. The way that his truck struck her car caused damage to the top of his grill and the upper portion of our client's trunk (the damage was pretty bad but you could easily see where the impact occurred). had his vehicle actually been sitting still as it was rear-ended, shoving him into our client's car, his truck would have pitched backwards, and his bumper would have easily been the first part of his truck that would have struck our client's bumper. However, the damage was concentrated primarily at the top of his grill and the top of our client's trunk.

The only way to interpret that is that his truck was pitched way forward at the time of collision. The only way his truck would have been pitched forward to such an extent would have been if he had slammed on his brakes, causing the truck to dive forward, thereby letting his bumper essentially go under her car's bumper and his grill take all of the heat. If he had been rear ended as he claimed, the opposite would have occurred. The sudden acceleration would have caused the front of his truck to lift upwards and his bumper would have struck her trunk above her bumper. We made these arguments and won. Case closed.

Oh, and the damage to the rear of his truck? It turned out that he backed his truck into one of his other cars in his own driveway a few days before, and when the new accident occurred and he injured our client, he thought he'd take advantage of his truck's rear damage, leading him to concoct the whole story.

It's simple: insurance companies and defendants have an opportunity to defend themselves and you have an obligation to prove that they are responsible. Although they are technically not supposed to lie or waste everyone's time, the grey area of the law and the parts that are open to interpretation allow such gamesmanship to occur. It is up to you to defeat these bogus arguments, and clearly only an experienced Texas car accident attorney will be able to guide you through such a legal minefield.

Call Grossman Law Offices

We have over 25 years of experience handling car accident lawsuits in the state of Texas. If you would like to discuss your case with an experienced car accident attorney, give us a call at (855) 326-0000. You can reach us 24/7.

Commonly, we've also seen negligent defendants use one of the following defenses to combat your car accident case. Click on any of the articles below to read more:

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