When one vehicle hits another vehicle, it can be a struggle to determine which driver was at fault. And, sometimes, neither driver is at fault. As you can probably tell, the average car accident claim can actually be quite complex.
To pursue full compensation from the at-fault party, you first need to identify who is actually responsible for the accident. In order to do this, you need to collect evidence and evaluate it, then present your case through the legal claims process. Although it is possible to do this on your own, the lawyers at Gatti, Keltner, Bienvenu & Montesi, PLC are far better prepared to determine fault in your accident for you.
Who Can Be at Fault in Car Accidents?
Generally, the driver who caused an accident will be deemed at fault in the accident. Though, there are often complex systems that convolute the process of identifying who is actually at fault. While it may seem like the driver who hit you is obviously at fault, the truth of the matter could be that you share some level of responsibility.
If the court determines that this is the case, any damages you claim may be reduced by the amount of liability you hold in causing the accident. Sometimes it isn’t another driver who is liable, but instead an entity, like a governmental body or car manufacturer. While this is not as common as accidents that were caused by drivers, it does happen.
For example, if you are driving on a road that for whatever reason does not have appropriate signage or signals, accidents that result from that lack of instruction could be the fault of whichever governing body is responsible for maintaining the road. Likewise, accidents caused by the failure of a defective car part may mean the manufacturer is liable for your damages.
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What if the Other Driver Was Breaking the Law?
If a driver is violating traffic laws when an accident occurs, they will usually be held mostly responsible for the accident. But, that does not mean they are automatically fully liable. You will still need to prove that you were in no way liable when you file your claim.
Otherwise, their insurance company or courts may place some of the blame on you and reduce your settlement.
Can I Be Liable for Damages in an Accident Where I Was Not Completely at Fault?
Technically, yes. For example, if a driver cuts across multiple lanes to make a turn, thereby causing every car behind them to brake suddenly, they will likely cause an accident. Drivers will be unprepared for the sudden stop, then potentially rear-end someone they were following too closely.
While the person who cut across the lanes is technically at-fault for the accident, the driver that did not stop in time to respond and avoid an accident is the primary at-fault party.
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How Is Fault Determined in Car Accidents?
There are several ways to determine exactly who is at fault in a car accident. Some of them include:
The Drivers Come to a Decision After the Crash
Drivers instinctively want to blame one another for accidents when they occur. This is not always the case, though. Imagine that someone runs a stop sign and an accident occurs, then they say, “sorry, I did not see the stop sign.” This is effectively an admission of responsibility, which could be used in court if documented.
In other cases, drivers know they are at fault and simply wish to be honest. They will express that the accident was caused by them, then allow the claims process to move forward uninhibited. This is rarely the case, but it does happen.
The Police Determine Fault
After a car accident occurs, you need to contact the police and have them make a report. When they show up at the scene, they will start asking questions to find out exactly what happened. The officers will also take note of the damage to any involved vehicles and see where they are located.
Based on the details, it may be entirely clear which driver was at fault in the accident. Though, you must keep in mind that police reports are not entirely infallible. When the car insurance company you are attempting to file a claim against sees the report, they can still attempt to argue about the circumstances of the accident to make the fault fall on you.
Insurance Companies Can Decide
If everyone involved in an accident chooses to file a claim, the insurers will come to a conclusion on their own. If your insurance company determines that the other driver or drivers were at fault, they will go after their insurance for restitution. Though, it may be necessary to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance yourself in many instances.
To make this process as seamless as possible, work with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
A Jury Decides Who Is at Fault
If negotiations do not reach a fair conclusion, the case must go to court. Although only a small percentage of car accident claims go to court, that does not mean it is not possible. You must be prepared for this outcome, even if you are only dealing with a small amount of money.
Cases that go to court may be subject to comparative fault laws, which decrease damages based on how much the victim was at fault in the accident. For example, if the other driver is 55% responsible for the accident, but you are 45% responsible, the amount of damages you can claim is reduced by 45%. This can become incredibly complex when multiple parties hold some level of responsibility for causing the accident.
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Get Help Determining Fault in Your Car Accident Claim
It takes significant evidence to determine fault in a car accident claim and collecting the proper evidence requires legal expertise that you may not have. To maximize your chances of recovering the maximum amount of compensation available, have a car accident attorney represent you in your claim. Gatti, Keltner, Bienvenu & Montesi, PLC have a long history of success in litigating car accident claims for thousands of clients.
We understand the ins and outs of the legal system, so trust us to fight for your rights and fair compensation! To start filing your claim, schedule a free consultation by filling out the contact form on this page.