Why Fault Isn’t Always Clear-Cut

Sometimes the answer is clear. If you are at a stoplight and a car runs through the intersection and slams into your side, fault is almost surely with the other driver. More often than not, though, the answer is murky, fault is unsure and it’s left to the police and the insurance companies to figure out who is at fault in a motor vehicle accident. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, the answer of who is at fault will undoubtedly affect your claim. However, even if an accident is considered to be your fault, you may still be able to pursue a claim and may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Comparative Fault

The concept of comparative fault, used in every state with the exception of Alabama, at times can be incredibly complex, depending on the circumstances. Essentially, comparative fault assigns fault in an accident according to percentages. For example, if fault lies mostly with one driver, that driver may be held responsible for 75 percent of the accident, while the other driver may be held responsible for 25 percent of damages. According to this system, the percentages dictate eligibility for damages in a civil personal injury suit. For example, if a driver is held 25 percent responsible for an accident, then they are eligible to receive only 75 percent of the damages or compensation sought. Stipulations do apply, depending on the state and the specific circumstances.

However, finding fault is not always black and white. There are generally several steps considered before fault is assigned, and in the case of comparative fault, a complete investigation before the percentage of fault is determined.

Finding Fault

To assign fault, the first document considered is a police report. The police report lists the officer’s notes and conclusions after examining the accident, including which driver was acting incorrectly, if not both. By examining the position of the cars, speaking with drivers, examining damage and speaking with witnesses, the report includes technical information, including the drivers’ contact information and insurance company, as well as the officer’s assessment as who was at fault.

The officer, as well as the insurance companies and the drivers themselves, can use and apply pertinent local, state and federal laws. If a driver was breaking specific laws (for example by running a red light or going excessively fast), fault generally lies with that driver.

What may also help determine fault is the type of collision that occurred. An accident in which you were rear-ended, for example, will rarely be considered your fault. lLgic suggests that the driver behind was too close or was not paying attention. If they were at an appropriate distance, they likely would not have collided with your vehicle, so it is their fault. Another example is an accident occurring from a left-turn collision. In most cases, the driver making the left turn is at fault because oncoming drivers going straight generally have the right of way. Finding fault is important in any accident, but even more so if a civil action is to be pursued. A determination of fault is crucial to deciding if there are even grounds for filing a suit.

Hire an Attorney

For these reasons, it is vitally important that accident victims obtain legal representation. An attorney will help evaluate your case, know if a police report may be changed or contest fault. A lawyer will be experienced in the procedures necessary for filing a legal claim, as well as what is reasonable to seek in compensation, or when it is in your best interest to accept a settlement. It is both legal and possible to pursue these claims by yourself; but to truly pursue your claim to the fullest, legal counsel is indispensable.