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How Is Fault Determined In A Car Accident?

Posted May 28, 2024 | Personal Injury Blog

Fault determined in a car accident

With around 286 million vehicles operating on roadways throughout the US, it is not surprising that car accidents occur daily. Many of these crashes are the result of one driver failing to obey traffic laws. 

After an accident, it is important to determine who was at fault. The determination of fault plays an essential role in personal injury claims and insurance settlements. 

Sometimes, it may be fairly obvious who is liable. For instance, if a vehicle is stopped at a red light and another driver bumps into it, the driver who rear-ended the stopped vehicle is probably at fault. However, there are other more complex car accident cases where it may be difficult to identify who was to blame. 

In this article, we will discuss what parties investigate car accidents and how fault is determined. 

Who Investigates Car Accidents and How?

Following a car accident, there may be various parties involved in investigating the incident and determining fault. 

Police officers

Anytime you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you should call 911 and report the crash. The 911 dispatcher will inform law enforcement, and an officer will be sent to the accident scene. 

A police officer responding to a car accident will:

  • Secure the area
  • Interview drivers and eyewitnesses
  • Take photos of the accident scene
  • Determine whether criminal activity such as drunk driving may have contributed to the event
  • Examine physical evidence such as property damage, skid marks, or debris in the road
  • Complete an accident report

The officer may include an initial determination of fault in the police report. While a police report is not legally binding, it does serve as important evidence during insurance negotiations and legal proceedings. 

Insurance companies

Insurance companies send adjusters to assess the accident and try to determine liability. 

While investigating a car accident, an insurance adjuster may:

  • Document the accident scene
  • Review insurance policy details
  • Inspect all vehicles involved
  • Collect statements from involved parties
  • Obtain a copy of the police report
  • Seek dash cam or video surveillance footage of the incident

The insurance company will use the information gathered during their investigation to determine who they believe is liable and how much compensation to offer the injured party. However, an important point to keep in mind about an insurance company’s determination of fault is that they are always on the lookout for ways to limit payouts and settle claims as cheaply as possible.

Accident reconstructionists

In complex motor vehicle accident cases, accident constructionists may be consulted to help determine fault. These professionals use specialized training, software, and techniques to recreate the events leading up to the crash. 

Accident reconstructionists analyze factors such as:

  • The road conditions
  • The vehicle’s direction of travel
  • The measurements of skid marks at the scene
  • The vehicle’s positions following the collision
  • The weight of each vehicle involved
  • The angle at which the collision occurred

By analyzing this information, accident reconstructionists can provide valuable insights into how the accident unfolded. 

Personal injury lawyers

Since insurance companies will not usually offer a fair settlement to accident victims, attorneys often need to conduct an independent investigation of the car accident for their clients. Personal injury lawyers use the information from these investigations to support their client’s claims and get an accurate estimate of damages owed. 

While investigating a car accident, a personal injury lawyer may:

  • Interview witnesses
  • Examine police reports
  • Find out whether any citations were issued at the accident scene
  • Review photos and video evidence
  • Get copies of toxicology records to see if the driver was under the influence
  • Obtain copies of the other driver’s cell phone records
  • Consult medical professionals, accident reconstructionists, engineers, and other experts

After the investigation is completed, personal injury attorneys will use the evidence collected to establish liability and negotiate fair client settlements. 

How Comparative Negligence Rules Affect Fault

Many states, such as Texas and Utah, operate under comparative negligence rules, which significantly affect how fault is assigned and damages are awarded in car accident cases. 

Under the rules of comparative negligence rules, if you are found partially responsible for an accident, you may still be able to recover damages. However, the amount that you recover will be reduced by your share of liability. 

For example, imagine that you are driving along when another driver runs a red light and collides with your car. However, upon investigation, it is revealed that you were speeding slightly at the time of the accident. In this situation, the court might find you 15 percent responsible for the accident and the other driver 85 percent responsible. 

Your compensation would be reduced by the percentage of your fault. This means that, if your damages totaled $10,000, you would receive $8,500 ($10,000 minus 15 percent).


Why Hire a Car Accident Lawyer

After a car accident, many victims just take the first settlement the insurance company offers them. Insurance companies are notorious for pressuring people into accepting fast and low settlements that are often far less than what the accident victim is entitled to receive. 

The amount that an insurance company offers you might not be enough to cover your medical bills – let alone your lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. In some situations, an insurer may even try to place all or part of the blame on you. 

For this reason, it is important to hire a personal injury lawyer to handle your car accident case. By entrusting your claim to a lawyer, you can focus on your recovery and well-being while your lawyer handles the legal back-and-forth. 

Consider some of the many ways in which car accident lawyers help you:

  • Investigating your accident 
  • Answering all your questions and addressing any of your concerns about the case
  • Gathering evidence to determine and prove fault
  • Identifying all liable parties
  • Filing all necessary paperwork
  • Handling all communication with the other parties and their insurance companies
  • Assessing the value of your car accident claim
  • Negotiating with the insurance companies
  • Minimizing any role you may have had in the accident
  • Litigating your case in court, if needed

Our Personal Injury Lawyers Can Determine Fault in Your Car Accident

The determination of fault following a car accident directly impacts your ability to recover compensation for your injuries and losses. Don’t leave it up to the insurance company to decide who was responsible for your accident. Insurance companies are mainly concerned with profits – not with what is best for you and your family.

When you hire a lawyer to represent you following a car accident, you can have the peace of mind that you will receive fair compensation for your injuries. Fielding Law has many years of experience in handling car accident cases, and we know how to collect the evidence needed to establish fault and liability. 

Don’t wait until time runs out to contact a car accident lawyer after being involved in a collision. Contact us at (877) 880-4090 or complete our online form to schedule a free case evaluation.

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Text edited by Mitchell Fielding, a personal injury lawyer and partner at Fielding Law. Mitchell is known for his hard work ethic, friendly personality and dedication to the law. You can find out personal injury law offices in Taylorsville, UT and Mesquite, TX.