How do you know who was at fault in a car accident?

First of all, understand why it’s important to determine fault in the first place. In most states, a driver who causes a crash is financially responsible for the damages that the other driver incurs. These include medical bills and property damage to your vehicle and possessions.


The injured driver will receive compensation from the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy, which covers the losses of the injured driver.

Determining Liability In a Car Accident

Sometimes it’s obvious who’s liable in a car accident. Perhaps unbiased witnesses saw the crash, a traffic camera captured the accident, or the other driver admitted fault.


Usually, the process isn’t so straightforward. Maybe there were no witnesses, or witnesses had varying accounts of the crash. Maybe the details of the wreck are hazy. Whatever the case, fault is critical for filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. Your ability to file depends on whether your lawyer can prove the other party was at fault.


After you file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company, the first thing they’ll do is conduct an investigation. They’ll probably compile evidence and circumstances of the crash such as weather and traffic patterns. One of the most influential pieces of evidence in their decision to approve or deny your claim is the police report of the accident.


Police reports are valuable because they include:


  • A diagram of the accident
  • Citations given to either driver
  • The officer’s opinion as to who was at fault in the accident


Be aware that police reports are inadmissible as evidence in court above the small claims level. This is because the officer’s opinion is considered hearsay as they were not at the scene when the accident occurred. However, these reports are extremely helpful for insurance adjusters and your car accident attorney at Get Car Accident Money.

No-Fault vs. At-Fault

How the insurance company determines fault and pays for damages depends on which state you live in. In no-fault states, drivers are required to have personal injury protection (PIP) on their auto insurance policy. 


With this policy, your insurance company will compensate you for injuries arising from an accident. In no-fault states, you can only sue the other driver if your injuries meet or exceed the serious injury threshold and/or the cost of damages exceeds a certain amount.


In at-fault (tort liability) states, the driver who caused the accident will compensate the injured driver with their insurance policy. At-fault states have virtually no restrictions on lawsuits.

How Insurance Companies Determine Liability

In addition to police reports, insurance adjusters look to other forms of evidence in assessing who was at fault in an accident. They’ll look at photos, available traffic footage, and speak to witnesses. The way they’ll use this evidence and the way they determine fault varies by state.


There are three major laws that insurance companies follow depending on where you live:


1. Comparative Negligence

Laws regarding negligence vary by state, but the gist is that the degree to which a person is found negligent affects how much money they’ll recover from the settlement.


In comparative negligence states, they’ll recover an amount of money based on their found level of responsibility. For example, if you are found to be 30% responsible for an accident but the other driver is found to be 70% responsible, their insurance company could pay up to 70% of your medical bills and expenses for vehicle repairs.


States that follow comparative negligence are:


  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington


2. Modified Comparative Negligence

This legal doctrine means that you cannot recover expenses from the other party if you are found to be more than 50 or 51% responsible for the accident. In states using modified comparative negligence, you’ll have to pay your own medical bills and vehicle repair expenses, even though the other driver shared some fault in the crash. States that follow this doctrine are:


  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming


3. Contributory Negligence (Pure Negligence)

In states using this legal doctrine, you cannot recover expenses if you are found to have any responsibility in an accident. Even if you were only 10% responsible, you are not eligible to recover compensation. These states follow this doctrine:


  • Alabama
  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Virginia

How a Car Accident Lawyer Will Help

Insurance companies and adjusters aren’t looking out for you. They’re not interested in giving you the compensation you need. Without an experienced auto accident attorney advocating on your behalf, they’ll give you the lowest amount of money possible. That’s why it’s in your best interest to hire a car accident attorney at Get Car Accident Money.


Our lawyers have represented thousands of clients who were injured or suffered losses in car accidents. They trust us to recover the money they need for medical treatment and car repairs. You can trust us, too. Call Get Car Accident Money today for more information.