How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

Determining which party is at fault for an accident is a critical step in the process of filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. The determination of fault has a direct connection with the outcome of a claim and case. Parties may disagree as to who was at fault for the accident, but some of the following principles may apply.

Importance of Determining Fault

The party who was responsible for the accident is usually legally responsible for the injured party’s damages. In some cases, more than one party may be at fault for the accident. In these situations, fault may be apportioned to the different people involved in the accident.

Process of Determining Fault

When an insurance claim is filed, one of the first steps that the adjuster completes is determining how the accident occurred. The insurance company may evaluate evidence and circumstances involved in the accident to determine whether the insured was responsible for the accident or if the other driver was responsible.

Police Reports

One primary source
of information is a police report. If a law enforcement officer was called to the scene of the accident, he or she will likely complete a report on the accident. The report may include information about whether the other driver was given a citation or which party the officer believes to be at fault. Insurance adjusters and personal injury lawyers may give this piece of evidence great weight.

Due to the importance of police reports, individuals involved in an automotive accident should review any relevant police reports and asking to make an amendment if a report includes inaccurate information.

Traffic Laws

State and local traffic laws can also help determine which party is at fault for an accident. Laws may regard information about times when a driver should reduce his or her speed, merging instructions or other relevant information that can be applied to the victim’s particular case.

Rear-End Collisions

The general rule is that if a vehicle gets hit from behind, the rear driver is at fault. This is because traffic rules require that there be a certain amount of distance between vehicles. Even if the front driver braked suddenly, the other driver was likely following too closely if he or she hit the vehicle in front.

Left-Hand Turn Accidents

Another common rule is that if a driver is making a left turn and hits someone in oncoming traffic, the driver making the turn is usually at fault. This is because the driver in oncoming traffic has the right of way. The driver making the turn is supposed to wait to make the turn until it is safe to do so. However, other circumstances may come into effect. For example, if the driver in oncoming traffic was speeding or running a red light, he or she may be partially or fully at fault.

Breaking a Traffic Law

If one of the drivers is issued a citation for violating a traffic law, this may be used as evidence of his or her culpability in causing the accident.

Other Evidence

Insurance adjusters may also look at photos of the accident. Sometimes the location of the damage on the vehicles can help demonstrate which party was at fault for the accident. They may also review witness statements regarding the accident.

Admitting Fault

Some individuals may admit fault in the accident. This may because it was their fault, or they may have perceived it to be their fault, but this perception did not include all relevant information. Insurance adjusters may attempt to assign all of the blame for an accident on a party who apologizes or makes a statement such as “I didn’t see you.” Due to the potential ramifications of being found at fault for the accident, many personal injury lawyers advise clients not to admit fault at the scene of the accident.

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Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case.

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