How To Tell Who Is at Fault in an Auto Accident


Every year, about 3 million people are injured in auto accidents. In 2019, there were 36,096 fatal crashes on the roads. With all these accidents and injuries, police, insurance companies, and even auto accident lawyers are working overtime to figure out fault.

Once you’re involved in a car accident, one of the first things you do is call for emergency service. Police arrive and survey the scene. You also make a call to your insurance company to make a claim.

A key factor in getting paid for a claim involves who’s at fault for the car accident. Sometimes fault can be tricky to determine and it can even be that the two sides don’t agree on who’s at fault.

So, how is fault determined following an auto accident? Read on to learn more.

How Do Police Determine Fault?

Once an accident happens, you should always call the police. Your insurance company will want an official police report. Some people find that the other driver is attempting to make a deal to not call the police. The truth is that you don’t know the other driver’s background or whether they will abide by their word.

The insurance company will ask for police report information as their adjusters will read about the initial investigation. So, how do the police determine fault? How do they determine if there should be a ticket issued?

Traffic Laws

There are traffic laws for a reason, to keep drivers, pedestrians and vehicles safe. When one driver violates some sort of traffic law an accident can happen.

Now, it’s entirely possible the driver breaking the laws won’t admit to it. But the truth is that the police can look at a number of factors:

  • The accident scene itself
  • Vehicle damage
  • Eye witness accounts
  • Traffic video

They can use all these factors to determine if it’s likely one driver broke a traffic law that then resulted in the accident. This would help them to decide if a citation needs to be issued for the accident.

Vehicle Damage

For the average driver, when you get into an accident, you may not be able to explain what story the damage to the car tells.

Yet, an experienced accident investigator, like the police or even an insurance adjuster, can look at the location of the damage and even the type of damage, and use it to figure out fault.

For example, damage at the back side of the car is almost always the driver behinds fault. They were going too fast, didn’t stop properly, or weren’t a safe distance back.

Damage to the side of a car shows that someone else likely hit the car. Damage on the front corner of a car is trickier. Then the accident investigator would need to look at where damage was on other vehicles to help them.

Witnesses the Accident

If you’ve been in an accident there is a list of things to do. Of course, you want to stay calm and get medical attention for anyone who is injured. You need to get information like name and insurance from other vehicles in the accident.

It’s always recommended you ask for witnesses names and contact information. You also never admit guilt, even if you know the accident was your fault. Why are these two pieces of advice given?

First, a witness often could see things that one or more of the drivers couldn’t see. Their eye witness account can often be conclusive in establishing guilt.

For example, let’s say two cars crash in the middle of a busy intersection. One car says the other driver came through the light while it was still red. The other driver says they went on green and the other driver attempted to turn left and hit them after the light changed to red. Who’s right?

In comes to the witnesses of the two cars behind the driver turning left who tell the police that the driver turned on red.

You also never want to admit guilt. Many people get quite dazed and confused following an accident. Often the accident happens so fast,  you don’t really know how it happened. Sometimes people start apologizing because they feel bad they are even a part of the accident, when in reality they have no reason to apologize.

Avoid admitting any kind of guilt until you’re really sure you might be at fault.

How Does Insurance Establish Fault?

Once the accident has cleared and the dust settles, so to speak, the insurance companies get involved. They have their own investigators and the claims will go back and forth between involved insurances to decide who pays for the claims made from the accident.

This is typically where the victims of an auto accident decide to seek the help of an auto accident lawyer to represent them. The insurance companies will make it difficult to get paid on a claim if they feel like they can get the other one to pay.

Insurance investigators will consider the accident report created by the police. While the police may write the report, they can sometimes miss important details or miss talking to the right witnesses.

Insurance investigators will want to look at the damage to the vehicles. If there were personal injuries from the accident, they will want to see medical information from the treating medical team too.

Auto Accident Lawyers

If an accident becomes a legal case, often because there are injuries, then the auto accident lawyers also get involved. They will consider all of the information already mentioned.

But an auto accident lawyer will also want to get their own experts to take a look at a case. Often accident experts will find details about an accident that helps to clarify guilt and sway a case.

Fault in an Auto Accident

If you’ve been in an auto accident, you know how upsetting and traumatic it can be. You might not have a clear recollection of the details because you were a part of the accident and couldn’t see everything, or experienced an injury.

It’s important for you to get the compensation you deserve to get an auto accident attorney and one who can help you to establish who was responsible for the accident.

If you’ve been in an accident, contact us today so we can do a free evaluation of your case and help you get your life back following the accident.

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