How do you prove fault in a car accident without a camera filming your every move? You will have less to prove than the other guy if any of these situations apply
Proving fault in a car accident case is a matter of examining the accident scene, reviewing police records, speaking with witnesses, and seeing where the incident falls under codes and regulations. The degree of fault is determined by the state in which the accident took place and which system of fault the state follows.
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- Obvious traffic law violations
- Car accidents involving rear-end collisions and left turns
- Fault supported by police reports
- Degrees of fault
Wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to prove fault when dealing with a car accident?
After an automobile accident, it is imperative to determine who is at fault – that way, insurance companies can figure out where to send the bills. This allocation of blame allows for the law and insurance systems to flow as smoothly as they can (which, as many argue, isn't very smooth at all).
However, assigning responsibility is often not so simple a task as a police officer arriving on the scene, eyeing the people involved and saying, "All right! You there, the guilty-looking one! It's time to pay up!" And then there's the case of driverless cars, too.
In fact, some accident cases will slog on for years as they fight over the issue of who's at fault.
There will always be some degree of fault for you to prove. Luckily, however – if there is to be some luck in these unhappy scenarios – there are some situations in which proving fault is taken out of your hands almost entirely.
There will always be some point of contention designed to mitigate circumstances, like the sun being in the driver's eyes or some kind of medical spasm that has since disappeared because he's made a miraculous recovery.
However, if one of the following circumstances plays out in your favor, you will have much less to prove than the defendant will.
Obvious traffic law violations
Assigning fault in a car wreck is clear-cut when one party has clearly broken traffic laws.
Violations can include speeding, failure to yield, running a stop sign and a number of other specific issues. Since state and local laws vary, determining whether violations apply in your situation may require some research online or at your local DMV.
The codes and regulations governing your traffic incident will be on the books, so you can look them up in the library or online. However, it might be difficult for you to understand the meanings and requirements of the different provisions – especially if each has filing requirements in the trial court, each with its own deadlines – which means you might want to enlist the help of a qualified auto accident attorney.
If you wish to represent yourself, look up the exact motor vehicle statute in question and use the verbiage when talking with the claims adjuster at the insurance company. Not only will you sound confident and knowledgeable, but you will also be taken more seriously.
Many smaller traffic violations are things that can be handled over the phone, and claims adjusters want to know what happened as concisely and quickly as possible.
Enjuris tip: You don't always need an attorney just because you've been in an accident. See when you do and when you don't.
The only caveat here?
Don't cite the wrong statute. Nothing makes you look sillier than talking about an entirely different vehicle law and sounding self-assured while you do so.
Car accidents involving rear-end collisions and left turns
Proving fault is often simple and straightforward in cases of "no doubt" liability, including rear-end collisions and left-turn impacts.
These can be potentially deadly crashes for the plaintiff, resulting in serious vehicle and bodily damage. Because they have little ability to escape from the collision, liability is heaped almost entirely upon the defendant.
In rear-end collisions, the law supports the driver in front. Drivers who rear-end another motorist are automatically assumed to be at fault in most cases. Most situations that involve rear-end collisions show this to be true.
This applies whether or not the defendant was driving incredibly close to his bumper (known as "tailgating"), as someone might do when frustrated by a slow driver in traffic. The idea is that the rear driver should know to fall back and leave a few car lengths in between him and the front driver in case they need to stop suddenly.
It’s not the front driver’s fault if the rear driver decides to close the gap and tempt fate.
This rule even applies if the front driver is stopped in traffic and the gap is minuscule.
However, there are certain instances in which the driver in front of a rear-end collision is liable. For instance, the driver in front may face challenges if they were negligent by failing to maintain brake lights and other systems, or if they illegally parked in a highway lane.
When a car going straight is struck by a car making a left turn, it's assumed that the turning driver entered the intersection without sufficient space and time to make the turn.
These auto accidents are identifiable by the specific damage caused to both cars. The turning driver will typically have damage on the front of their car, while the other automobile's damage will often appear on the front-right side.
As with rear-end collisions, the straight-traveling driver may still hold some liability in a left-turn accident if they are found to have run a red light or exceeded the speed limit.
If you are unsure of your level of fault, an auto accident attorney can help you understand your potential liability and help you take steps to protect yourself.
Fault supported by police reports
Before pursuing any legal action following a car wreck, be sure to obtain a copy of the police report. This will not only tell you if the responding officer cited the other driver for any violations, but it will also sometimes include the officer's own thoughts on the cause of the crash. If the other driver was, in fact, at fault, then the police report can be your most valuable tool in proving that liability and protecting your own interests.
Most police reports will contain both parties' versions of the crash, as well as the officer's personal observations and those of witnesses. Much of the time, witnesses will be impossible to reach again or will leave the state, and what they say in the report will be their only testimony. Make sure to get their contact information if you can, because you are definitely going to need it.
Enjuris tip:Always get contact information from car accident eyewitnesses if you can. Very often, they leave the accident scene and are impossible to reach again. You may need them in the future for your case, so make friends with them. Be chummy and get that phone number!
Of course, this doesn't mean an officer will always show up to the scene of an accident.
If that's the case, you will want to get to the closest police station as soon as possible after an accident. After all, a police report is you and the defendant recounting the story of what happened to an officer, who writes it down on paper. The officer will then ask witnesses to back up what you and the defendant said.
If the officer is MIA, you can ask the defendant to join you at the station as well, though you can't make them go with you if they don't wish to. Regardless, this request will show you are observant, conscientious and ready to take the necessary steps to secure your compensation. Insurance companies are far less likely to pay damages if there isn't a police report on file.
Insurance companies are far less likely to pay damages if there isn’t a police report on file.Tweetthis
Make sure to check the report for factual inaccuracies.
If the error is something like a time or place mistake, that can be easily fixed. If the error is something bigger, though, like who was at fault, correcting this mistake will require forms and bureaucracy. Each station likely has their own procedures for fixing errors, so it's best to consult with an attorney in order to streamline the process.
In addition to the police, a mechanic or body shop may also be helpful in proving who is at fault. Their assessment of the damage to your car can help illustrate points of impact, speed of the impacting vehicle and other important details about the wreck. Make sure to have everything documented for your attorney and don't forget to keep copies for yourself.
Degrees of fault
There is also the question of how much fault we're talking about. Each state has enacted 1 of 4 different systems used for determining damages in the U.S.:
- Pure comparative negligence
- Pure contributory negligence
- Modified comparative negligence (50% bar rule)
- Modified comparative negligence (51% bar rule)
This is a common law defense that states if 2 people were in an accident, the injured person could recover only if they were absolutely not at fault. This was called the "1% rule" and is now called "pure contributory negligence."
Most states have moved away from this standard because it's quite strict. In fact, only 5 jurisdictions still adhere to this system: Alabama, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.
In this system, an injured person can still recover even if they were partially responsible for the accident. Their recovery might be reduced depending on how responsible he was, though. States using a comparative negligence system assign a percentage of fault to each party, and this is where it breaks down further into 3 branches:
- Pure comparative negligence
- Modified comparative negligence (50% rule)
- Modified comparative negligence (51% rule)
In the pure comparative negligence system, which 13 states currently follow, a percentage of fault is assigned to each party and then damages are split accordingly. That way an injured person can recover damages even if they were 99% at fault in causing the accident, though their damages would be reduced by their degree of fault (so it might not be worth filing a claim if you were 99% at fault).
With modified comparative fault (50% rule), which 12 states follow, an injured person can only recover if their fault in causing the accident is 50% or less. The remaining 21 states follow the 51% rule, which means that plaintiffs can only recover damages if they are 51% or less at fault.
As you can see, there are many important liability considerations at the state level when pursuing car accident damages, and contacting a state-specific attorney is highly recommended. Attorneys who specialize in motor vehicle law can be an invaluable resource because they understand the legal details and nuances that are found in each state.
If you’re not sure how to proceed or just want to ask around, consider checking out the Enjuris law firm directory to find an attorney near you.
- Steps to an insurance claim settlement
- How damages are calculated
- Options for covering your medical costs after an accident
- How is pain and suffering calculated
- Negotiating lawyers fees - how do accident lawyers charge? Are there any hidden costs?
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- Keep your distance. Drive far enough behind the car in front of you so you can stop safely. ...
- Drive strategically. Avoid situations that could force you to suddenly use your brakes. ...
- Don't get distracted. ...
- Don't drive when drowsy or under the influence.
The claims handlers at both insurers will try to build up a picture of the accident with evidence to support their policyholder's version of events. Where the drivers' stories are disputed, the quality of that evidence can help to resolve differences and determine liability.Should I get a lawyer for a car accident that was my fault? ›
Hiring a motor vehicle accident lawyer after a car accident that was your fault is a good first step, before speaking to the insurance companies. Lawyers know how to deal with insurance companies and can help mitigate any claims that are made against you by the other parties involved in the accident.Who is at fault in a car accident? ›
In most cases, a driver who hits another car from behind is at fault. Likewise, a driver taking a left turn is most often blamed for any accident that results from this turn. Police reports and insurance claims often reference one driver's admission of guilt after an accident.What are the 3 factors that cause accidents? ›
Drivers: Over-speeding, rash driving, violation of rules, failure to understand signs, fatigue, alcohol. Pedestrian: Carelessness, illiteracy, crossing at wrong places moving on carriageway, Jaywalkers.What are 4 main causes of accidents? ›
- Distracted Driving. Distracted drivers are the top cause of car accidents in the U.S. today.
- Speeding. ...
- Drunk Driving. ...
- Reckless Driving. ...
- Rain. ...
- Running Red Lights. ...
- Running Stop Signs. ...
- Teenage Drivers.
During a traffic accident, paint transfers between vehicles and chips off. Police can examine these patterns to help determine whether an accident occurred, how it occurred, and who is likely at fault.How does car insurance work when you are not at fault? ›
In most cases, if you aren't at fault in a car accident, the other driver's state-mandated liability insurance coverage would pay for damage to your car, property and for medical bills for injuries, up to the limit of the policy. This is especially useful if your policy doesn't have adequate coverage.Can you get pulled over for driving a damaged car? ›
Laws About Damaged Vehicles
Depending on your local state driving laws, you may be pulled over and ticketed for not following road safety protocols.
While the driver who changed lanes is often at fault for lane-change or sideswipe accidents, that's not always the case. Fault must take into account the actions of both drivers leading up to the crash. In some cases, the driver who was not changing lanes could be partly responsible.
Generally, the insurance company has about 30 days to investigate your auto insurance claim, though the number of days vary by state.What happens after a car accident that is your fault? ›
If you live in a fault state, the person responsible for the accident will hold liability for anyone's injuries. The other driver would file a claim with your insurance company, and you or your car insurance will pay for losses. In a no-fault state, however, each party's auto insurance usually covers their losses.What does a car accident lawyer do? ›
After your car accident, a car accident attorney can gather information from the accident, give you legal advice, negotiate with insurance companies, and help you pursue compensation for your losses, so you can heal from it and get back to your normal routine. Car accidents can be traumatic for the victims.What happens if I'm at fault in a car accident UK? ›
If you were at fault, then your insurance company will pay for the vehicle repairs. You will pay the excess on your policy. This is the portion of any claim that you agreed with your motor insurer when you took out the cover.Should I get a lawyer for a car accident that was my fault in Florida? ›
There are no Florida laws or regulations that require you to consult an attorney after an accident. However, your personal injury attorney will make sure, right from the start, that you do and say the proper things for you to file for compensation or damages. Accidents today can cause mild to serious injury.Is it worse to be rear ended while stopped? ›
Head, neck, and back injuries are extremely common in rear-end accidents, especially when the vehicle hit was stopped completely. That vehicle's driver and passengers take on the full force of the impact. In severe rear-end collisions, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and internal bleeding can occur.How much damage can a car do at 30 mph? ›
A 30 mph crash has the potential of causing traumatic organ damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and other organs.What happens if you don't call the police after an accident? ›
So if you haven't spoken to the driver of the vehicle, you need to leave your details and report it to the police. If you don't, you could face a fine, points on your licence or a driving ban.How does car insurance work when you are not at fault? ›
In most cases, if you aren't at fault in a car accident, the other driver's state-mandated liability insurance coverage would pay for damage to your car, property and for medical bills for injuries, up to the limit of the policy. This is especially useful if your policy doesn't have adequate coverage.What happens if the other driver does not admit fault? ›
Drivers are often advised not to admit fault at the scene, but that doesn't mean they won't admit it at a later date. Even if they later fail to admit fault, they can still be held liable if the evidence of the accident proves it – if the other car drove into the back of you or ran a red light, for example.
No Win No Fee Claims If The Other Party Has Denied Liability
Instead, you would be charged a success fee, where you pay your solicitor out of your compensation if you win your claim.
This is a call from a company asking about a car accident you've supposedly had claiming you may be entitled to compensation. Some of these could be genuine companies looking for business but others are scammers. Don't engage in these calls.What happens after a car accident that is your fault? ›
If you live in a fault state, the person responsible for the accident will hold liability for anyone's injuries. The other driver would file a claim with your insurance company, and you or your car insurance will pay for losses. In a no-fault state, however, each party's auto insurance usually covers their losses.What you must pay before an insurance company will pay a claim? ›
A deductible is the amount you must pay before the insurance company pays anything on a claim. You usually pay a lower premium if you choose a higher deductible.What happens if someone hits my car and drives off? ›
If somebody hits your parked car and drives away without leaving a note, you should call your insurance provider. Even if you don't intend to make a claim, it's important to update your provider about any damage to your car. If you don't, you could end up invalidating your cover.What happens if no one admits liability? ›
If the defendant's side denies liability, this means that they do not accept that the defendant was responsible for your accident. If the defendant fails to accept liability, the next most likely step in your case is to get supporting evidence to present to the defendant.How long does an insurance company have to investigate a claim? ›
Generally, the insurance company has about 30 days to investigate your auto insurance claim, though the number of days vary by state.Who is the third party in an accident? ›
The term 'third party' refers to a person involved with a car insurance claim who is not you – (the holder of the policy or the driver). So this is usually the other driver involved in an accident.Why do insurance companies deny liability? ›
Lack of Evidence To Establish Fault
Insurance claims are often denied if there is a dispute as to fault or liability. Companies will only agree to pay you if there's clear evidence to show that their policyholder is to blame for your injuries.
It's unlikely you'll need to go to court when making a claim
It's quite uncommon for a personal injury claim to go to court - in fact, around 95% of our cases are settled without a hearing. And even if a court date is set, your claim might still be settled before the date comes up.
If your health insurer refuses to pay a claim or ends your coverage, you have the right to appeal the decision and have it reviewed by a third party. You can ask that your insurance company reconsider its decision. Insurers have to tell you why they've denied your claim or ended your coverage.Is accident cold calling illegal? ›
Unsolicited calls of this kind are often illegal, though many claims management companies either ignore this fact, or find a way round it by using overseas call centres.Can you be charged for picking up a call? ›
Where the incoming call is from, is immaterial. You will only be charged for receiving calls if you are roaming in a non-4G country.What if I answered a call from my own number? ›
It is generally a good idea not to answer a phone call that appears to be from your own phone number. There is typically no legitimate reason for a person to receive such a call, and by answering, the scam artist is notified that your number is active, often leading to more scam calls.