Car Accident - Who's faulty?

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TL;DR

  • In an auto accident, the driver found at fault and their insurance provider will be liable for any damages sustained by the injured party.
  • Every car accident should be reported to the police in order to file a police report which describes how the accident happened and lists any traffic citations.
  • The insurance adjuster assigned to the accident will determine who was at fault in the car accident by examining police reports, speaking with any witnesses, reviewing medical records and studying the vehicle’s damage.
  • If you file a lawsuit, a judge or a jury will consider the arguments and evidence presented by each party to determine who was at fault.
  • Comparative fault means that both parties can be determined negligent and will be assigned a percentage of fault with damages awarded to the party least at fault.

Determining who is at fault in a car accident is extremely important. After all, the faulty party and their insurer will be liable for any damages sustained by the injured party. In some accidents, it is very easy to tell who it fault. In others, it is a difficult determination that will need to be made by separate entities through different methods.

How to Determine Who’s at Fault in a Car Accident

The Police

Every car accident should be reported to police. Once that happens, one or multiple officers will arrive at the scene to gather evidence for their police report.  This report will describe how the accident happened, but it may not include a determination of fault. Even if the report states who caused the accident, this does not mean that the driver will be held legally responsible for damages to the other party.

The police may also issue traffic citations to one or both drivers involved in the accident. A citation, or a ticket, is a summons issued by a law enforcement officer to a person violating a traffic law, such as speeding or running a red light.  A fine may be assessed against the violating driver, or they may have to appear in traffic court. A citation alone does not determine fault, but it may be used as evidence that the driver was possibly at fault or negligent.

Insurance Companies

When a claim is filed with an insurance company after an accident, an adjuster is assigned to investigate the accident and settlement of the insurance claim. Adjusters will examine each accident by looking at police reports, speaking with any witnesses, reviewing medical records and studying the vehicle’s damage. The adjusters will determine who was at fault in the car accident. This determination may include both drivers and assign a percentage of fault to each. The damage costs will then be paid to each claimant according to their percentage of fault and the limits of their policies.

Insurance companies usually determine fault under the legal concept of negligence. Negligence happens when someone fails to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another. For example, if a driver is not paying attention and rear ends the car in front of them at a red light, that driver is likely to be found at fault for the accident due to negligence.

Courts

If you file a lawsuit seeking compensation for your injuries or damage to your vehicle following an accident, the court will determine who was at fault by finding whether the defendant was negligent. Again, someone is negligent when they fail to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another.

In making their determination, the court will consider the arguments and evidence presented by each party. Evidence can include testimony from the drivers involved in the collision, witnesses, officers who investigated the accident and medical care providers. Traffic citations can also be submitted as evidence. A decision maker, either a judge or jury, will find whether either party was negligent based on the evidence presented.  

In Louisiana, we have the doctrine of comparative fault, which means that both parties can be negligent and will be assigned a percentage of fault. Damages are then awarded to the party least at fault proportionate to their percentage. For example, if a jury finds that one driver is 30 percent at fault, and the other is 70 percent at fault, and that damages are $100,000, the driver who is mostly at fault will be liable to the other for $70,000.

If you have been in an automobile accident, determining who is at fault will be critical to your case. An experienced attorney can guide you in dealing with the insurance companies and filing suit, if necessary. Contact our office today so that we can assist you in getting the compensation you need.

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