Car accidents can be an extremely difficult thing to go through, especially in situations where it is not clear exactly what happened or who is at fault for the crash. Determining fault after a car accident is done by determining who was negligent in their operation of the vehicle—that is, who did not act responsibly or with reasonable care for others while operating their car.
In some types of car accidents, the nature of the collision indicates who is at fault leading to a fairly simple scenario. However, in other situations, it will be up to the police, the insurance company, and qualified car accident attorneys to assess the situation and truly figure out where the fault lies.
Determining Fault after a Car Accident
If one car rear-ends another, the fault will generally lie with the driver who did the rear-ending, and not with the car who got hit. Typically rear-ending shows that the driver in the back was being negligent, either by following too closely to the other car or by not paying enough attention to the road conditions. Maintaining a safe following distance and staying alert is one of the most important rules of the road, so drivers who violate this will generally be blamed for the accident.
Failure to Yield
In a situation where a driver must make a left turn without the help of a turn signal, they must yield to oncoming traffic until they have enough of a gap to safely make their turn. If a driver becomes impatient and tries to go without enough leeway, however, they can cause an accident with oncoming traffic that is considered their fault due to exhibiting a failure to yield.
Failure to Stop at a Red Light
Running a red light is an extremely dangerous choice, but unfortunately, many irresponsible drivers do it every day. If a driver runs a red light and hits another vehicle, they will automatically be considered at fault for the accident as they were negligent by failing to respect the common rules of the road.
Distracted Driving Accidents
While these can be a bit harder to prove, an accident where the driver was distracted will typically be their fault. Texting and driving is perhaps the most prevalent form of distraction behind the wheel, but eating and driving, drivers doing their makeup in traffic, or drivers who are simply not paying enough attention will be considered negligent and thus be at fault. If you believe a driver was driving distracted and they are denying it, working with an attorney who can enlist the help of accident reconstruction specialists can determine exactly what happened.
Drunk or Impaired Driving Accidents
If a driver is found to be drunk or otherwise impaired by police who respond to the crash, they will be considered the cause of the accident in most cases. Getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated immediately violates the drivers’ legal duty to act with reasonable care and safety while they are operating a vehicle.
How Police Report Factor Into Car Accident Fault
Even if the damage on the scene appears mild, you should always call the police after a car accident so they can write up a report documenting the situation. They will gather each driver’s identifying information and will speak to both parties and nearby witnesses. They will then compile all this information into an official accident report, which will sometimes include their opinion regarding the at-fault party in the crash.
While the police report is not the only factor that is considered when insurance companies review the information, they will take it into consideration as they process drivers’ claims. Police can also issue citations at the scene if they believe a driver was speeding, driving recklessly, or otherwise violating the law, which will also be considered if a car accident claim is pursued.
When Insurance Might Determine Fault in a Car Accident
If the at-fault driver contests the information in the police report, it may be up to the insurance companies to decide where the true fault lies regarding the accident. Insurance companies can review the available evidence and determine if their customer is truly at fault, which is why gathering evidence at the scene of the crash is so important if you are healthy enough to do so. Taking your own pictures, talking with witnesses, and getting your own copy of the police report can be extremely valuable evidence if there is a dispute regarding which driver was at fault.
How Apologies Impact Determining Fault After a Car Accident
You have likely heard that you should never apologize after a car accident and that is sound advice. After a car accident, there are legal ramifications involved with saying you are sorry—if you apologize, that is considered an admission of fault. If the police report documents that the other driver was at fault but the driver alleges that you apologized to them at the scene, it will be much easier for their insurance company to argue that they are not responsible for paying a settlement to you.
How Can an Accident Attorney Help Determine Fault in a Car Accident?
If you have been in a car accident where it is disputed that the other driver is at fault or if their insurance company is not offering a fair settlement, a car accident attorney can help you. Even if the other party is clearly found to be at fault, insurance companies will often be reluctant to pay the victims a fair amount to compensate for their medical costs, financial losses, and the general inconveniences a crash can cause. A qualified attorney will work with law enforcement, accident reconstruction experts, and medical professionals to determine exactly how the accident happened and what a fair settlement amount is to cover your losses, pain, and suffering.
Should I Use a Dash Cam?
Dashcams can be very helpful in determining fault and we recommend that you have one in your vehicle. If you have the accident on video, it can be one of, if not the, strongest piece of evidence you have to defend yourself. Many dash cams are only $50-$100 making it an affordable invest that can end up saving you thousands if you happen to get into an accident.