Who’s at Fault in a Car Accident? How does the process work?

at fault car accident

Who’s at Fault in a Car Accident?

Some things in life cannot be planned, and these include car accidents. If you’ve been in an auto accident recently and are wondering how to proceed with determining who is at fault and how an auto injury claim works, you’re in the right place.


No-Fault and At-Fault Car Accidents

No-Fault Car Accidents

When it comes to auto accidents, certain states have no-fault insurance laws. This means that if the accident occurred in one of these 16 states, drivers are obliged to have personal injury protection (PIP) on their car’s insurance policy. It’s the PIP that pays your medical expenses after a car accident, regardless of which driver caused it.


However, if your car has been damaged by another driver, these claims are paid on an at-fault basis, and it’s their insurance that may handle paying for your vehicle repairs.


At-Fault Car Accidents

At-fault accidents happen in states that don’t have PIP coverage laws. Then, the insurance company determines the driver at fault, and their insurance helps cover any injury and property damage claims.


Let’s say you hit another person’s parked car. In that case, you’re at fault, and your auto liability coverage would be used to cover the other driver’s vehicle repairs.


After you’ve been in a car accident, your main priority is to protect yourself and others, as well as get out of harm’s way by following the law. After that, it’s best to call the police and file a report. To do that accurately, you need to record the details of the accidents and exchange information with all involved drivers. By following these steps, you will be better prepared when you file a car insurance claim later on. 


Determining the At-Fault Driver

The most important step in an auto accident is to determine who was the responsible party since, in most cases, it is their insurance company that will have to cover the personal and vehicle damage involved in the process. To determine the person at fault, insurance companies have to prove negligence on the part of one or more of the drivers. Keep in mind that there are many cases where both or all drivers are at fault. Negligence can be proven based on several key elements:

#1 There was a breach of legal duty

As a driver, your legal duty is to operate a vehicle safely and reasonably that protects other drivers, pedestrians, passengers, and bicyclists.


#2 That breach led to personal and vehicle injuries

In addition to driving dangerously, the driver’s negligence must have been the direct or proximate cause of the auto accident and all personal and vehicle damage related to it. This means the accident wouldn’t have happened if the driver was driving carefully.


The Process

Although in many cases, vehicle damage can be a key factor in identifying the at-fault driver, other factors like physical evidence from the scene, police reports, eyewitnesses, and weather conditions can also influence the final decision. Once an insurance company steps in to investigate, its goal is to determine liability by gathering evidence and witness reports. 


Physical evidence, such as injuries, dents, skid marks, and paint scratches on a vehicle, as well as personal injuries, can usually help point to the responsible driver. Weather reports of that day are also crucial for assessing the visibility of the road, the possibility of slipping and causing accidents.


If the fault is unclear, insurance agents will often coordinate with police to obtain traffic camera footage of the area that may have captured the accident. Photographic evidence can be used as well. If there were witnesses and bystanders at the event, their statements would be taken into account, too.


In many cases, more than one driver is found to be at fault. When that happens, the percentage of negligence is distributed among the drivers, which then determines the terms of the financial settlement. 


Let’s Look at an Example

When both drivers in an accident act negligently, the insurance agents will assign a percentage of fault to each party involved. Let’s say Car A is turning left through an intersection and it hits Car B in the process, while Car B is driving in the opposite direction and moving over the speed limit. In this hypothetical scenario, the driver of Car A may be found 70% negligent, and the driver of Car B might be deemed 30% negligent. 


In that case, Car A’s insurance company will likely have to pay up to 70% of Car B’s repairs and medical costs, and Car B’s insurance will cover up to 30% of Car A’s damage repair costs.


When you need help settling your auto accident claim, finding a professional auto injury lawyer is a breeze with Legal Chiefs. Browse through our network today to find the expert you need!



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Auto Accident FAQ

Your first and foremost action following an accident is to stay calm, check if you or anyone else involved has been injured, and call the police. Get the name and contact information of all parties involved in the accident as well as any witnesses of the event. To document the damage, take pictures of the accident scene, the vehicles, and your injuries. It’s important not to admit liability until you hire an attorney because they will conduct a thorough investigation to establish the driver at fault.
Right after a car accident, you may feel fine, but injuries can surface days, weeks, and even months later. That’s why it’s good to see a doctor even if you don’t believe you were injured in the accident. Your doctor can recognize issues or injuries that won’t immediately become apparent to you and alert you to warning signs of injuries that may arise due to the accident. If you fail to treat your injuries within a certain period of time, you may forfeit your right to get reimbursement for future medical costs. The general rule is not to settle auto accident claims without having been examined by a medical professional.
In most cases, you won’t have to go to court. The majority of auto accident claims are resolved outside of court after negotiating the terms with the insurer. Most insurance companies generally try to settle claims as quickly as possible and for as little money as possible, so it’s wise to have an attorney negotiate on your behalf.
In addition to taking pictures of the accident scene and taking the contact information of the involved parties and witnesses, your detailed explanation of how the accident happened is also necessary to file a claim. Law enforcement reports of the accident will also serve as crucial evidence in your claim.
Many factors determine the driver at fault in an auto accident case. Do not accept any part of the blame until the investigation has concluded. Even if the investigation finds that you are partially at fault, you may still be entitled to receive compensation. There are cases when the victim also shares part of the blame for an accident. If, for example, you were driving five to ten mph over the speed limit when the accident happened, this would have limited your reaction time, and you could likely be considered a negligent driver even if you weren’t the one to cause the crash. Different states have different ways of settling auto accident claims where more than one driver is at fault. So it’s best to check the specific laws in your state (or the state where the accident took place) or discuss the matter with your auto accident injury lawyer.
It happens surprisingly often that people get into an auto accident where the driver at fault doesn’t have insurance. In these situations, it’s wise to have an auto insurance policy that comes with Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. That way, if you get into an accident and the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, you will still be able to file your claim under the UM coverage you have with your own insurance company. Your insurer will then process the claim following the same process as it would for an opposing insurer. The only difference is that the claim will be against your UM coverage and not against another driver. Likewise, if you were involved in a hit-and-run accident where the responsible driver fled the scene before you could take their information, you can again seek compensation from your UM coverage.
Suppose you suffered injuries after an auto accident that was caused by another driver’s negligence. In that case, there are two main types of damages that you may seek compensation for: compensatory (a.k.a. monetary) and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are the most common type of damages in a personal injury claim, and they often include: ● Current and future medical bills ● Property damage ● Emotional duress ● Lost wages ● Loss of enjoyment of life ● Loss of future earnings potential On the other hand, punitive damages are much rarer, but they can occur in situations where the vehicle manufacturer is to blame.