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How To Determine Fault And Liability In Car Accidents

Car accidents are never an ideal situation to be in. A fender bender may result in physical and psychological stress, whether you’re the aggrieved party or authorities declare you to be at fault.

Like in most personal injury cases, establishing who caused the accident is critical to any car collision because it determines liability. In most minor car crash cases, insurance companies are left with this task so they can identify who pays.

But in some instances, the issue isn’t black and white. This means fault and liability can sometimes be challenging. That’s why states have laws that govern such matters, making it easier for authorities to settle an often contentious issue.

Brush up on your knowledge about determining fault and liability so you won’t have to scratch your head and appear completely gullible when dealing with the issue.

How To Determine Fault And Liability In Car Accidents

The Difference Between Fault And No-Fault States

Finding out whether the state you’re in is a ‘fault’ or ‘no-fault’ state is important when it comes to insurance payments. Insurance law varies from one state to another. For instance, ‘fault states’ or ‘tort states’ require that authorities determine who caused the accident so they can pay for damages. In some major collisions, each party would need to take their claims to court. With this, drivers will have to find a viable car accident attorney to represent their interests before the court.

Conversely, in ‘non-fault’ states, car owners can approach their insurance provider for medical and repair costs no matter who and what caused it. As such, in these few states, it’s imperative for drivers to purchase no-fault car insurance coverage.

This doesn’t mean you can’t take a negligent driver to court in ‘no-fault’ states. Instead, these states assign a threshold in terms of the severity of injuries or the cost of medical bills. When a threshold is met, you can hire an attorney to guide you on the best actions to take moving forward.

What Is Fault In A Car Accident?

Pinpointing who and what caused a vehicle collision can sometimes be a no-brainer. If you’ve been rear-ended, for instance, by a driver who wants to park next to your car, you can safely say that the other driver was at fault. This may be true in some cases. But authorities and insurance companies will launch an investigation in an attempt to settle the issue with more factors being considered.

So which processes are involved when accident investigators and insurance companies launch a probe into the incident? Read on to find out.

How Do Police Determine Fault And Liability?

When a car accident is reported to authorities, a traffic investigator will be sent to the site to gather evidence and fill out a report. This document is often required by insurance companies so they can start the process.

At the site, the investigator will interview persons who may have witnessed the mishap, take photos of the car crash site, and gather other details. From this set of information, the police will try to recreate the scenario leading to the collision in an attempt to determine fault and liability.

In some instances, especially when a collision is complex in nature, police may not cite the driver at fault. But they may issue a citation ticket that may prove useful in car accident settlement claims lodged before the court.

How To Determine Fault And Liability In Car Accidents

How Do Insurance Companies Establish Fault And Liability?

An insurance adjuster will be assigned to handle your case and the eventual claim settlement. These insurance representatives will conduct an investigation by talking to witnesses and checking medical reports and the vehicle’s physical damage, among other key activities.

Using the evidence gathered, the adjuster will determine fault based on the legal statutes of negligence that apply to the state where the collision took place.

The Three Basic Levels Of Fault

Common law presents different fault levels when it comes to personal injury cases, car collisions included.

Negligence: This happens when a driver fails to exercise minimum levels of attention and care, causing harm to a person or property. Failing to yield to another vehicle is one of the more common causes of vehicle collisions along busy streets.

Recklessness or wanton conduct: While still considered an accident, recklessness is described as a disregard for the welfare and safety of others. Excessive speeding, tailgating, and beating the red light are a few examples of wanton conduct causing car crashes.

Intentional misconduct: This refers to a wrongful act deliberately done to harm a person. For instance, a driver could purposely try to run over their spouse following a heated argument. Intentional misconduct may sometimes lead to a criminal case. Hence, apart from the civil case where damages are awarded to your victim, you may also face jail time as a felon.

The Bottom Line

When claiming damages from vehicle collisions, fault and liability need to be established by police and insurance adjusters, especially in ‘fault’ states. If the incident is elevated to the court, your lawyer should be able to defend your interests. This means maximizing your claims if you’re the aggrieved party or minimizing penalties if you’re identified to be at fault.