Friday, June 17, 2016

Determining Fault in a Car Accident

Who is at fault after a car accident?
When a car accident occurs, it is part of legal procedure to determine who is at fault. This also serves the insurance companies in the critical steps of filing an insurance claim or personal injury suit. Determination of fault plays a large role in the outcome of a personal injury case and associated claims.

The person or entity determined to be responsible for a motor vehicle accident is usually financially and legally responsible for damages and injuries suffered by others involved in the crash. One individual driver may be held accountable for these damages or multiple parties may be deemed at fault. When multiple parties are involved, damages may be divided between those parties according to their role in the accident.

Determining Fault: The Process

There are several principles applied in determination of fault. These usually help lead to clarification of blame or negligence in the accident, even when involved parties disagree about the circumstances of the wreck.

Insurance Company Review

One of the first steps an insurance adjuster will take when working on an accident claim is to determine how the accident happened. The adjuster and others within the insurance company will review evidence and evaluate the circumstances of the wreck. The goal of this investigation is to figure out whether the policyholder is to blame for the accident or another driver was at fault.

Police Reporting

When police respond to an auto accident, they file a comprehensive report with their precinct. This report about the circumstances of the accident may include details of the drivers’ citations if any are issued. The police report may also provide opinion of the officer, regarding which party he or she believes is at fault for the crash. The police report plays a significant role as evidence in a case, particularly in the eyes of insurance adjusters and personal injury lawyers.

Car accident victims should review the police report filed for their accident. If there is a difference of opinion in how the accident occurred or other information is believed to be inaccurate, the involved individuals can request an amendment to the police report to rectify any mistakes.

State and Local Traffic Laws

Traffic laws frequently help assign responsibility for an auto accident. These laws may include details about periods when reduced speeds must be maintained, who holds right of way in merging or yielding situations and other information that may be relevant to an individual auto accident case. State and local laws also provide rules regarding specific types of accidents and who is to blame in those scenarios, as below:

o   Rear-End Collisions

When a vehicle is hit from behind, the general rule is the driver who rear-ended the vehicle in front of them is to blame and usually assigned fault for the accident. This is due to an expectation that drivers must allow a specific amount of distance between their vehicle and a vehicle in front of them. The space serves the purpose of accident prevention. So when this space is not provided and an accident results, blame is fairly clear. This is even the case when the vehicle in front suddenly brakes or makes a poor decision, as when the rear driver is providing enough space, he or she will also have enough reaction time to ensure an accident does not occur.

o   Accidents Involving a Left Turn

If a driver is attempting a left turn and collides with someone in traffic flowing toward them, that driver executing the turn is most commonly at fault in the eyes of the law. Traffic flowing in a straight line has the right of way over a vehicle turning across the flow of that traffic. The left turning vehicle must wait until the most opportune and safe time to cross through traffic before proceeding.

But other circumstances can be involved in this type of accident that alter the left turn rule applicability. An example would be a driver running a red light toward the left turning vehicle, speeding into that driver making the turn or otherwise breaking traffic laws that lead to the accident.

o   When Traffic Laws are Broken

Violations of traffic laws can lead to driver citations on an accident scene, as well as assignment of fault using this violation and the citation as evidence in a personal injury case.

Other Considerations for Fault

Insurance adjusters may use other evidence or considerations to determine fault. Photos of the accident scene are particularly solid evidence. Location of damage on each vehicle involved in the wreck can sometimes help determine who was to blame for the accident, as well as the role each driver played in compounding the magnitude of damage. Witness statements are also key evidence in assigning fault for an accident.

When a Driver Admits Fault

On the scene following an accident or thereafter, a driver may admit he or she was to blame for the accident. It is very important to not do this when involved in an auto accident. Quite often, these confessions of blame are from stress, individual perception of fault or even a sort of shock due to the magnitude of the situation. But frequently, individuals are not aware of all incidents leading to the accident and simply perceive their reaction to a cause as making themselves responsible for the entire wreck.

Because insurance companies will try to use such confessions as concrete evidence of who is to blame for the accident, it is advised by most injury lawyers that their clients never say things like, “I didn’t see you” or “This is my fault” when involved in an accident. Even if you believe you are at fault, this is something that should be discussed with your car accident lawyer, first. They will then advise how to handle your belief based on evidence in the case.