How to Tell Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident

Because so many people in the United States rely on their vehicles for transportation, car accidents are unfortunately a common occurrence. Personally experiencing a car accident and its immediate aftermath can be incredibly bewildering, frustrating, and time-consuming. On top of this, car accidents can lead to serious injuries.

Generally, the person who causes a car accident is responsible for covering the damages. Often the cause of a crash is driver carelessness or neglect. Although determining which party is at fault for the accident typically comes down to establishing who was negligent and acted carelessly, no two situations are the same. Because of this, determining fault can prove more challenging than it appears.

While you might believe that the another driver in the accident was liable, others at the scene such as investigating police officers and witnesses may have a different view.  Additionally, the insurance companies for potentially liable drivers that review the claim will seek to determine fault as well. For this reason, speak with a skilled San Jose car accident attorney as soon as possible after an accident in which you believe another party is at fault.

How Police Determine the Liable Party in an Accident

If you are in a car accident, you will want to contact the police as soon as it is safe to do so. When they arrive on the scene, the police will assess the damages and help to contact medical teams to treat any immediate injuries. Once the area is safe and medical professionals have been alerted, the police will then typically proceed to interview each party that was involved in the accident, as well as any witnesses. The purpose of these interviews will be to attempt to put together an account of the circumstances and the situation that led to the accident.

When the police have collected what they consider to be sufficient information, they will put together an official accident report. This report will indicate who the police believe to be at fault for the accident based on what they have observed at the scene and from the information they have gathered from each party involved. While these reports can help present information to the courts, the documents do not constitute a legal determination of fault, and often contain mistakes.

After surveying the scene of the accident and speaking with all parties who were involved, the police officer will sometimes write a ticket to the party who they deem to be at fault for the reckless driving that resulted in the collision. Again, this information can help present a case to the court and when speaking with the insurance companies, but the traffic citation itself does not by itself prove liability.

Insurance Companies Process for Determining Fault After an Accident

While the police have their process for determining fault in the event of an accident, the insurance companies often follow a different method. After a car accident, both parties will typically contact their insurance companies to report a claim. Once the claim is filed, the insurance company will assign an insurance adjuster who will manage the claims process. The insurance adjuster will review the details surrounding the claim.

These often include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical records for treatment related to the accident
  • The official accident report filed by the police
  • Damages to the vehicles involved
  • Witness testimony
  • Verify insurance coverage and plan details

The insurance companies will put together this information to determine fault and to outline the potential compensation for the insurance claim. In looking to establish the liable party, the insurance adjusters will often defer to the legal definition of what constitutes negligence in the state where the accident occurred. In some situations, this could be a fairly simple process. For example, if one driver ran through a stop sign and hit another car who was following the traffic rules, the driver who broke the traffic laws could potentially be held liable. In other circumstances, liability is not as clear cut. Unfortunately, whether liability is clear or not, the insurance company for the allegedly responsible party will often make a decision about liability or your damages that is not favorable or fair. Which can be helping you determine who hit who in your car accident.

If you find yourself questioning the decision of an insurance adjuster, it is helpful to speak with an attorney who has experience working with car accident cases. One of the benefits of working with a skilled attorney is that they will talk to the insurance companies on your behalf. Insurance adjusters will often attempt to contact you in the event of an accident to hear your side of the story. Although it can be tempting to speak with them and explain the details of what you believed to have happened in the accident, this can work against your best interest. By working with a knowledgeable attorney, you can focus on resting and recovering from your injuries while he or she manages communications with the insurance companies.

The police and the insurance companies will have their own unique process for determining fault in the event of a car accident, and the courts will look to determine which party involved in the accident was negligent. If you have been involved in a car accident and have reason to believe that the other party was at fault for the damages that resulted, speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.

The legal process around determining fault for an accident can quickly become complicated and it can be helpful to work with an attorney who understands how to navigate this process. Call today to learn more about how our firm can help you in the event of a car accident. We are determined to fight for your right to full compensation.

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