Defining Who is at Fault in a Car Accident

Who’s at Fault?

Determining who is at fault for the occurrence of a car accident comes down to the car accident laws of each state. A general rule for determining fault after a car accident is to determine if one driver was performing an illegal act or not. If both drivers were abiding by the laws of traffic, a driver may be deemed at fault if they collide with another vehicle. For example, if you are at a red light and are hit in the rear of your vehicle, the driver who collided with you would be considered at fault.

In most states, auto insurance is fault-based. In other words, the driver who is determined at fault for the accident can be held liable. If you are found liable, you may be responsible to pay for repairs, medical bills, lost wages, and other losses.

In other states, auto insurance is considered “no-fault.” In no-fault states, drivers might be required to carry personal injury protection (PIP). Personal injury protection is put in place so a driver cannot be sued for their personal belongings. In these states, both insurance companies will pay for medical expenses until they reach a predetermined threshold.

Who’s liable?

Now that we know how fault is dealt, we must determine who is liable. Determining liability depends on the state that the accident occurs in. There are a few different theories to determining who is liable, they are:

  • Comparative Negligence

In states with comparative negligence, you are allowed to seek compensation even if you are determined to be at fault. Damage is determined in proportion to responsibility. In other words, if you are deemed to be at 70% at fault for the accident, you will be held liable for 70% of the damages, while the other driver to cover the remaining 30%.

  • Modified Comparative Negligence

In states with modified comparative negligence, your ability to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance is limited.

  • Contributory Negligence/Pure Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is the strictest of the three. In states with contributory negligence, a driver must be determined to have no-fault in an accident to receive compensation. A good example of this is if someone side swipes a legally parked car. Since the car was parked legally, the driver cannot be placed at blame for being hit.

Determining Fault

After a car accident, there are a few things you should do. First of all, make sure everyone involved is medically okay. If not, call an ambulance immediately. Then you should begin to gather evidence. Evidence can be anything from pictures of the accident, to witness reports, and even a copy of the police report. When you are discussing the accident with authorities, it is important that you do not admit fault. At the end of the day, the police report has the last word. It will be considered the most important document.