How to Determine Who’s at Fault in a Car Accident

Rohan Mathew

Updated on:

The average driver is bound to have three to four car accidents in their lives.

If you consider the fact that in the US alone, over six million car accidents are reported every year, with millions more going unreported, there may be some truth to it. The thing is, the driver at fault has to compensate the victims, but one of the most significant challenges people face is determining who was at fault in a car accident.

Most of the time, auto accidents are so abrupt and result in horrible aftermath that it becomes hard to tell who was at fault. The intricacies of determining fault are entirely subjective, and the laws vary by state. However, it determines whose insurance policy has to pay for damages, and who has to be liable for any personal injuries.

In this guide, we’ll explore everything involved in determining fault in a car accident and help you decide who to file a claim against.

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How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

Sometimes, it may be clear who’s at fault, but most of the time, it’s not.

States fall into two different categories: no-fault states and tort states.

In no-fault states, every driver turns to their one insurance company for compensation regardless of who caused the accident. In tort states, the insurance companies conduct a thorough investigation to determine who caused the crash.

The insurance companies pay compensation based on who was at fault, and some victims have to sue the party responsible for compensation. Only 12 states are no-fault states, three of which give drivers a choice between no-fault and tort coverage.

However, you must understand even in a no-fault state, “no-fault” refers to personal injuries and not property damages. If you were responsible for a car accident in these states, you might not pay for the victim’s personal injuries, but your insurance company will have to pay for all property damages.

Beyond that, even if your insurance policy will have to pay for your injuries if your medical expenses exceed the maximum limit of your policy, the other party’s insurance will kick in and pay the rest. This means that even in no-fault states, fault has to be determined in case of scenarios like these.

If you were at fault, and your medical bills exceed the limit, you can’t go after the other party’s insurance. However, there are stipulations that can allow you to sue them for pain and suffering.

In these cases, having a professional car accident attorney can go a long way because they will help you maneuver all these obstacles and get the compensation you deserve.

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Who Determines Fault in a Car Accident?

Fault in a car accident is determined by the insurance adjuster or police sent to the crash scene. There aren’t any requirements or standards for determining fault, though.

In most car accidents, the police are responsible for determining fault. Once they get to the crash scene, they file a report containing all the pertinent information involving the accident.

They talk to all parties involved, the witnesses and assess damages and weigh in all factors to determine fault. It’s easier to prove if the accident was caught in the security cameras because some drivers deny being at fault.

Fault can also be determined when the insurance company reviews all the events that led to the crash, and all the damages and injuries sustained. The adjuster gathers information from all parties involved and any additional witnesses like pedestrians available.

Determining the degree of fault, however, can be quite complicated. In some accidents, both parties can be partially at fault. The insurance company could agree to assign a certain percentage to one driver, and the rest to the other driver.

In this case, both insurance companies will have to pay the respective percentages of damages caused. This is usually not as straightforward in some states because the driver with the highest percentage is considered more at fault. Hence at liberty to be liable for all damages.

In some cases, some people admit fault and take responsibility for the accident. However, if the crash wasn’t your fault, saying you are sorry to the other driver is a mistake because they can use it against you as an admission of fault.

What If Fault Is Not Clear?

Proving fault in a car accident can be challenging, in which case the insurance companies can agree to split the costs. In these cases, it’s usually better if witnesses are involved. They can help determine who’s at fault and who’s not telling the truth.

What If You Hit an Animal or an Object?

If you got into a crash and hit a moving animal or even an inanimate moving object like an exploded truck tire, you can file a claim if you have comprehensive insurance. Since the animal or object was moving, there may have been no way for you to tell where it would go, so it wouldn’t be your fault for hitting it. Without comprehensive car insurance, you may have to pay for all the damages yourself.

If, on the other hand, you hit a stationary object, like a tree or pole, it will be considered a crash. You will need a collision insurance policy to get compensation. According to insurance companies, it’s the responsibility of the driver to avoid hitting stationary objects.

Not Sure Who’s At Fault? Call a Professional Attorney

Determining fault in a car accident may not be as straightforward as we would like it to be. This can get complicated with personal injuries and car damages that all you want is the compensation you deserve. The best course of action is to hire a professional car accident attorney who will navigate the situation for you and help you determine what steps to take.

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