Determining fault in a car accident is important for a number of reasons, but it’s sometimes difficult to do. It can be tedious waiting to see which way the outcome will go. So, you may be asking yourself, “How is fault determined?”
Who determines fault?
In many, if not most, car crash situations, it falls to the insurance companies who insure the individual drivers involved in the crash to determine who was at fault. When investigating a crash, they look at the statements the drivers make, any police reports, or any other evidence gathered about the crash. They do this to try to determine negligence.
What is negligence?
Negligence is a legal term that means acting carelessly, thoughtlessly, or in a manner contrary to the way a reasonable driver would act under the circumstances. In order to determine fault you–through your insurance company–have to find out who was acting negligently.
In some car accidents the negligence is very obvious. For example, if you are stopped at a red light and a driver crashes into you from behind, the other driver was most likely driving negligently. These types of accidents are often referred to as “no doubt” cases because the facts involve leave almost no room for mistakes about who caused the collision.
However, other cases are not as clear-cut. In such situations the insurance company will have to look at other evidence.
Police reports can be a deciding factor in determining who was at fault. Whenever the police investigate an accident, they write a report. They will detail their findings and sometimes determine whether one or more of the drivers involved committed an infraction. Infractions are simply traffic violations.
If a police report includes an officer’s opinion that one driver committed an infraction and caused the accident, this is typically enough for insurance companies to determine the offending driver was at fault.
In some situations it isn’t clear that the crash was entirely one driver’s fault. For example, you might be involved in a rear end collision because you suddenly changed lanes without giving a signal or checking to see if the other lane was clear of traffic. But, if the accident results from another driver rear ending you because the driver was speeding, it’s fairly obvious that both of you did something to cause the crash.
In such cases car insurance companies might divide fault between both drivers. They might, for example, say that one driver was at fault for 70% of the crash, while the other driver was at fault for 30%.
The best thing you can do to reduce your risk of car accidents is to drive safely and be cautious of your fellow drivers.