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How is car accident 'fault' determined?

Posted at 8:45 AM, Oct 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-03 11:45:19-04

Vehicle accidents are scary, even if there are no injuries. As much as you try to avoid them, the average driver will get into a wreck about once every 18 years.

When they do occur, you may wonder who’s going to have to shell out to cover repair costs or even potential injuries.

“Determining the responsible party for a car accident can sometimes be tricky,” according to hg.org. “There is often a difference between who actually caused an accident and who legally is at fault.”

Basically, fault is determined by looking at whoever was breaking a law or driving negligently to cause the accident but, because it can get tricky, it’s wise to hire an attorney to act as your advocate and ensure your rights are protected.

How the police determine fault

When officers arrive on the scene, they check that everyone is OK and then interview the drivers involved and any witnesses. They will also examine the scene, including damage to vehicles, to decide who is at fault.

There are a few things you should do, as well, including exchanging the following information with the other driver:

  • Full name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Insurance company name, address and phone number
  • Policy number
  • License plate number
  • Driver’s license number

You can also collect your own evidence (without impeding law enforcement) by documenting what happened, for your records.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, so snap some shots of the scene and the vehicle damage with your iPhone right away,” according to FindLaw. “Jot down a few notes about the circumstances of the accident, including weather and road conditions if relevant. Also, try gathering contact info for any witnesses and ask them what they saw.”

Sometimes who is at fault may seem obvious, but it could be questioned in a court case later, so it’s a good idea to have as much information as possible.


Common accidents

The most common type of vehicle collision is a rear-end crash, which makes up 29 percent of all crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This happens when one vehicle hits another in front of it, for a variety of reasons, including driving too fast, following too close or simply not paying attention when the front vehicle is slowing down or stopped.

“These can happen at traffic lights, intersections, or even on the open road,” according to Injury HelpLine. “Rear-end collisions can leave both cars inoperable, as well as cause drivers or passengers injuries that range from minor to very serious.”

There are also single-vehicle accidents — for example, you slide off the road or hit a stationary object — but fault is not cut and dried. Your vehicle may have defects that led to the crash, or the road may have been designed or maintained poorly.

“Sometimes cars have manufacturing defects. Maybe there were faulty brakes or poor alignment and the car didn’t operate the way it should,” FindLaw says. “ … Maybe your accident was the result of a stoplight malfunctioning or simply not working or deep potholes in the roadway.”

There may even have been other people who caused the crash without crashing themselves by, for example, swerving into your lane and forcing you to hit something else to avoid hitting them.

What you can do

Regardless of fault, you can have your interests represented to ensure you are treated fairly. After all, accidents happen, and victims need an attorney they can trust. The attorneys at Ed Bernstein & Associates have more than 40 years experience in personal injury law and understand its finer nuances. Visit edbernstein.com or call 702-240-0000 to find out how to get started on the road to recovery.