Who’s Responsible in the Case of a Car Accident? Here’s What You Should Know

When a driver violates a traffic law that causes an accident, he or she will usually be held responsible. For instance, if the driver is issued a citation for something like running a light or speeding that in turn caused an accident, that driver will primarily be at fault and carry the most responsibility for the resulting liability.

However, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who is responsible for a car accident. Furthermore, who actually caused the accident and who is legally at fault are not necessarily one and the same. Knowing who is responsible can have ramifications on which person’s insurance company will be required to pay out for damages and which driver could be held liable for personal injuries. 

The Importance of Eyewitnesses

Things are complicated more by the fact that each state in the US has its own systems for determining who is at fault. In some states, a percentage of the blame can be assigned to both drivers, which could result in different monetary obligations for both parties. In many jurisdictions, when a driver causes his or her vehicle to collide with the rear of another vehicle, the rear driver is often presumed to be at fault. Other times, the cause of an accident, depending on the jurisdiction laws, is not clear-cut. When that occurs, the accident victim who experienced injuries should speak with an experienced car accident lawyer. The lawyer can help in various ways, including speaking to eyewitnesses who observed the accident firsthand. 

Eyewitnesses are incredibly important to tell who is responsible for a car accident and for determining the outcome of a claim, so having a lawyer who can speak to them directly really makes a difference in determining who was at fault. If you have a car accident, make sure you record witnesses’ names and phone numbers so they can help to determine the fault later. A car accident lawyer can also obtain copies of police reports to help resolve which driver was at fault.

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The Differences of Different States

While experienced lawyers can help to determine who actually caused the accident and assist injured people to get compensation, who is legally at fault still depends on which state you are in because each state has different laws. The two main differences to know are “no-fault car accidents” and “at-fault car accidents.” The former occurs in states with no-fault insurance laws. In sixteen states, drivers must have personal injury protection as part of their car insurance policies. That helps to pay for medical expenses in the event of a car accident, regardless of which driver was to blame. An at-fault car accident occurs in states without those personal injury protection laws. In those states, the at-fault driver’s insurer helps to cover property damage and injury claims. 

How do insurance companies determine fault?

Insurance companies determine fault depending on the state laws and the exact details of the accident. Insurance terms that you need to know about in the event of experiencing a car accident include:

  • Comparative Negligence. This means you can recoup accident-related costs from the other driver, based on his or her degree of responsibility for the accident.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence. This means you can recoup costs from the other driver if you are over 50% at fault for the accident.
  • Contributory Negligence. Also known as “Pure Negligence,” this means you cannot recoup expenses if you are found to have any responsibility for the accident.

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