Working out who’s responsible for a car accident can be a tricky process. It might seem obvious that the person who caused the accident should be at fault, but it’s not always the case. The key word here is responsible, which can carry strict legal definitions. Just because someone caused, an accident does not mean they were legally responsible for it.
Since it’s not so clear cut, we, at the Loya Insurance company thought we’d put together this simple guide. Let’s take a deeper look.
Why is it important to determine who’s at fault?
Determining fault in a car accident can be important for many reasons. The biggest amongst them are to do with insurance and liability.
The responsible party in a car accident will, in general, be the one whose insurance pays for damages (see below for exceptions). Being found at fault in an accident can also influence insurance premiums in the future.
Moreover, the responsible party will also be the one liable in the case of any personal injury or death incurred during the accident. This is obviously crucial in any potential legal proceedings which may result.
In most instances, whichever driver involved in the accident violated traffic law will be held legally responsible.
For example, an accident occurs in an intersection. One driver is following the traffic signals, and another has illegally entered the intersection by running a red light. The driver following traffic laws runs into the other vehicle, thus causing the accident. But because the other driver violated a traffic law, they’re the legally responsible party.
This is a general and simple case
Say in our previous example one car ran a red light, but the other was speeding, worsening the accident. Depending on the state the accident takes place in, both drivers could be found to be responsible. The driver who ran the red light might be found “more” responsible, and have to cover more of the damages, but the other driver wouldn’t be found blameless. They’d have to cover a certain amount of damages and be liable for injuries.
There are also cases where a person who’s cited for a traffic violation isn’tresponsible in an accident. Take for example a fairly common occurrence of reckless drivers whose actions cause accidents. Driver A might cut across several lanes of traffic to make a turn. Driver B slams on their brakes to avoid an impact with Driver A and Driver C runs up the back of Driver B because they didn’t stop in time.
Driver A will certainly get cited for reckless driving in this situation. But it’s actually Driver C who’s legally responsible for the accident. As they were behind the other cars, they should have been traveling at a safe distance to allow for stopping. Despite Driver A’s driving causing the accident, it’s Driver C who’s at fault.
Gathering evidence to determine fault
We’ve seen that sometimes fault is fairly easy to determine, and sometimes it can be a muddied and tricky mess.
So how do these situations get resolved?
As with all crime, evidence is key. There are several vital pieces of evidence that go into creating a case to determine fault:
- Driver’s statements. Record any comments made by the drivers involved in the accident. It’s not uncommon for driver’s to — if unintentionally — admit guilt in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Common phrases such as “I’m sorry for hitting you” or “I didn’t see you” can be taken as admission of guilt.
- Police citations. Citations for traffic violations made by police, as said above, can play a major part in determining fault in an accident.
- Eyewitness accounts. Bystanders who witness the event can provide valuable insight for insurance and police reports. The prevalence of phone video and dashboard cameras has made evidence gathering for vehicle accidents easier than ever before.
- Forensic evidence. Forensic crash investigators are typically only brought in on fatal vehicular accidents to determine criminal liability.
It’s important to watch what you say and collect as many eyewitness accounts as possible following a traffic accident. Under most state law, anything over $500 of damage must be reported. Be prepared to defend yourself if accused of being at fault, or ready to provide evidence if you believe the other person to be at fault.
Peace of mind with the Loya Insurance company
No matter how safely you drive, traffic accidents can happen at any time. Car insurance is the best way to give yourself peace of mind on the road. Visit Loya insurance to get the cheapest price on car insurance, and drive with the knowledge that whatever happens — you’re covered.