How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

By Alex Yoesting No comments

At some point in your life, you’ll most likely be involved in a car accident. From dealing with police to addressing vehicle damages and injury, car accidents can become quite overwhelming.

Especially if you’re unsure about who’s at fault and how damages will be covered.

But knowing how fault is determined is essential for navigating car accidents in the most effective way possible. In this article, we’re covering everything you need to know about various determinations of fault. So you can know what to do (and what to expect) should you ever end up in an auto accident.

Basic of Fault in a Car Accident

There is no single definition of fault when it comes to a car accident. And the ways in which car accident claims and damages are determined can differ greatly by state. Here are the two major state-level things you should know about car accidents.

There are Fault & No-Fault States

In most states, auto insurance is fault-based. This means that the at-fault driver is expected to help pay for repairs, medical expenses, etc. Other losses are generally covered by the driver’s liability coverage.

In no-fault states, each driver’s insurance company pays for the insured person’s medical expenses up to a specified threshold. Property damage claims are fault-based though, so the cost of repairs will be covered by whoever in that situation is found at fault.

Fault is Determined by Your State’s Definition of Negligence

In most scenarios, the insurance companies involved will determine who is at fault based on that state’s definition of negligence.  These definitions of negligence can differ by state.

One type of negligence is comparative negligence, which is about your percentage of fault related to the other driver. If your state follows this definition, you can seek damages based on your degree of responsibility for the crash.  

In some states, there is modified comparative negligence, which means you can only recover losses if your level of fault is below a certain threshold.

How Fault is Determined

Typically, the fault is determined by an adjuster who has been assigned to the auto accident case by the insurance company. This adjustor speaks with witnesses, examines vehicle damage, and checks the details of the insurance parties of all involved as part of their evaluation.

Then the insurance companies work to determine who caused the crash, and who should be responsible for covering costs for injuries and damages.

Insurance companies generally determine fault based on the legal definition of negligence in that state, as mentioned above. Drivers are usually negligent if and when they fail to exercise caution a reasonable person would in the same circumstances.

But each insurance company handles coverage differently, and the state in which the crash occurred greatly impacts how everything plays out. It’s also important to know there isn’t an exact set of standards or requirements for fault across the country.

Insurance companies often rely on witness testimony to determine blame. If there are no witnesses and fault is unclear, they may trip to split the cost of the damages 50-50.

If you file a lawsuit after a car accident because you feel you deserve money for injuries or damages, then the decision is left up to the court. A lawyer will hear arguments from all legal parties involved and review the evidence presented to them. Then a judge or jury will determine whether the other driver was negligent and required to pay you.

It’s important to note that police reports and any determinations made by insurance companies will not decide the outcome of the court case.

Final Thoughts on Fault in Car Accidents

A car accident can be a stressful and costly endeavor. Especially if you’re unsure about whether or not you’ll be footing the bill. By following the information in this article, you can better know how fault is determined, and the role you should play in the process.

Have you been in a car accident? Do you believe you’re entitled to damages you weren’t awarded? Learn more about our legal services to see how we can help you get the compensation and justice you deserve!