How Is “at Fault” Determined in a Car Accident?
For some motor vehicle accidents, determination of fault is an easy matter. There are cases in which only one of the cars involved could possibly have been responsible. However, the party whose negligence or carelessness lies at the heart of the matter can often be difficult to determine. To make matters worse, law enforcement, insurance companies and even the courts might differ in their opinions.
Since the at-fault driver may be responsible for paying damages, we understand how important it is for anyone involved in a vehicular accident to make the determination correctly. Here is what we recommend you do.
1. Ascertain whether any of the drivers involved happened to be violating the law. Was one of them speeding? Did he or she fail to yield, blow through a stop sign or run a light that was obviously red? A driver who clearly failed to obey the rules of the road is more than likely to have been the driver at fault.
2. Always call the police to the accident scene. Their subsequent report will play a significant role in backing up your claims. This is particularly true for cases in which law enforcement issued a citation to the other driver, but either way, be sure to obtain a copy of their written accident report.
3. Take pictures. Images taken at the time of the accident can help to establish the extent of the damage. They are also invaluable for documenting road conditions, weather, faded road markings, obscured traffic signals, skid marks and other relevant factors that may have played a role in causing the accident.
4. Speak to any witnesses that might be on the scene. Not everyone will be forthcoming, and some may claim that they never saw a thing. However, anyone who is willing to speak can help to firm up your case, particularly if their stories agree. Be sure to get all names and contact information, and if they indicate a belief that the other driver was the one at fault, ask them to tell you why they feel that way.
5. Determine whether any surveillance cameras in the area may have captured the accident as it took place. This could prove to be the most valuable evidence of all. Take a careful look around the area, and if you locate any nearby devices of this type, be sure to point them out to the officers in attendance at the scene.
6. Make note of all statements made by the other driver or drivers immediately following the accident. The motorist who apologizes or claims he never saw you could be paving his own road toward being found at fault.
7. Was the other driver’s negligence responsible for causing the accident? A failure to have behaved in a way that is expected could put this person at fault. This might consist of an obvious traffic violation such as running a red light or texting while driving. It could also be the case that the driver had no headlights, drove without his glasses or failed to signal a turn. Any of these things add up to negligence and could put the other driver at fault.
8. Did the other driver hit you from behind? If so, he or she could be the one at fault. On the other hand, if either car was turning left at the time, the odds are that its driver was the one responsible. However, the situation will not always be that cut and dried, and a true determination of fault will take into consideration all elements of the situation. For instance, a left turn executed on a green arrow is legal, and its driver is blameless if the car that hit him was running a red light. Similarly, the driver who slams on his brakes suddenly for no good reason could be responsible for causing the car behind to run into him.
The Application of Evidence
The laws of the state in which you live will also play a role in assigning fault, as follows:
- In a no-fault state, each party’s insurer will cover his or her own claims.
- In states that adhere to the doctrine of pure contributory negligence, an injured party who was even slightly responsible will lose all chance to recover.
- In pure comparative fault states, the extent to which a person can recover damages will be reduced by the extent to which he or she was at fault.
- States like Nevada that play by the rules of proportional comparative fault do more than simply reduce the amount of damages by the percentage of fault. They also deny damages altogether to anyone who is found to have been at least 51 percent responsible for an accident.
If you have suffered injury in an auto accident and have concerns about the assignment of fault, the attorneys at Gregory & Waldo can help. We will do more than just provide you with the legal advice and information you need. We will also fight to protect your rights. Don’t sit back and worry about your chances. Call today for a free consultation.