Motor Vehicle Accidents Law

How Do You Prove Fault in a Car Accident?

After a car accident, insurance companies will usually work to figure out who was at fault for the accident. Determining who is responsible for the collision, or, in some cases, who is simply "more" responsible, can affect how much money either party will pay or receive.

When each side is arguing about how the accident happened and who caused it, how will fault actually be determined?

The first thing you should do after a car accident is get the advice of a personal injury attorney. How you deal with the insurance company going forward can affect the result and you don't want to say anything or take any action that could harm your case.

Driver and Witness Accounts

One of the first things the insurance companies will want to do is talk to the drivers and any witnesses to get each party's side of the story. This will form the initial basis of their investigations.

Insurance companies will have a set list of questions they need to ask when they start to look into an accident. It's important not to guess, make things up, or lie about details. Doing so could hurt you later on in the process. As the advice of your personal injury attorney as they are able to handle this part of the information exchange.

If it's only been a day or two after the accident, don't say that you don't have any pain or injuries, as some may take awhile to set in. It's fine to say you not sure yet or that you're still waiting to see.

Soon after the accident, take as many pictures as you can, and write down everything you can remember about the collision, from what you were doing before right before it happened to where you were to what the weather was like at the time. The more details you can remember and write down while the event is fresh in your mind, the better your attorney can answer the insurance representative's questions. If you have any contact information for any witnesses, be sure to share that, too.

Police Reports

If you or any of the other drivers filed police reports, insurance companies will look at those to help piece together the puzzle of who is most at fault. If an officer didn't come to the scene of the accident, you can go to your local police station and request to fill out a report yourself.

It's important not to lie to the police about the conditions of the accident, or to lie on the police report, but again consult with your personal injury attorney first. Any discrepancies or disproved facts can weaken your case.

Physical Evidence

Usually, the damage to the vehicles can tell part of, if not the whole, story of the accident. The location and depth of dents can determine the speed of the vehicles when they collided. Depending on the position of marks, cracks, or dents, insurance agents and police officers will be able to tell which car hit the other, or whether or not a struck vehicle should have had time to stop before the collision or not.

Examining physical evidence will also include details about the location where the accident took place. Are there obstructions? Malfunctioning lights? Damage to the roads? The weather and visibility conditions will also be taken into account, as will the conditions of the cars prior to the accident.

State Laws

The laws in each state can play a role in determining fault in an accident. Speed limits and other rules of the road are usually determined by the state or local ordinances, and violating them can prove the fault of one driver over the other. In some states, for example, you're required to turn your headlights on in the rain. If you don't and are involved in a car accident, the failure to have your lights on could make you more liable.