Determining fault in a car accident can be difficult. There can be a lot of factors that contribute to an accident, including other vehicles, weather conditions, traffic conditions, and even your own negligence. So how exactly is fault determined in a car accident?
Evidence will play a large role in determining who was at fault. After an accident, make sure to contact the police immediately. An officer will come to the scene and create an accident report. The officer will often indicate on the report who they determine to be at fault and why this could become a very important piece of evidence in a personal injury case. In addition, make sure to gather other evidence, such as:
- The contact information of other parties involved
FAULT VS NO-FAULT
Determining fault is one of the most important aspects of a car accident claim, yet how insurance companies deal with fault varies from state to state.
Depending on where you live, it may not matter who was at fault. Some states have “no-fault” insurance laws, which means that each driver’s own insurance company pays for the driver’s medical expenses, up to a threshold.
Most states have “at-fault” insurance laws, which means that the insurance company for the at-fault driver helps pay for property damage, medical expenses, and other losses of the injured party. In these states, most car accident cases will fall under the tort law principle of negligence.
Negligence is the failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. It is a legal theory that helps both law enforcement and auto insurance companies to determine who was caused the accident. However, there are varying degrees of negligence that can affect a party’s amount of fault.
Contributory negligence occurs when a party acts negligently and ends up injured as a result.
Example: Driver 1 was driving negligently and speeding through the neighborhood. Driver 2 failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Driver 1 struck Driver 2, causing a neck injury. Because Driver 2 was also being negligent when they breached their duty to come to a complete stop, Driver 2 contributed to their own injury.
Pure comparative negligence states that, when an accident occurs, the fault of each party involved is based upon their respective contributions to the accident. The percentage of fault is often used when determining damages.
Example: Using the situation above, let’s say Driver 2 pursued a personal injury claim against Driver 1 and was awarded $100,000. However, Driver 2 was found to be 30% at fault for the accident, therefore the Driver 2’s damages will be reduced by 30% to $70,000.