Determining Who Is “At-Fault” for an Accident

By Armstrong & Lee LLP

June 19, 2018The period after an accident can be a stressful, overwhelming, and confusing time. There are a few things that you should do immediately after an accident, that you can read about at our blog post: Five Things to Do After an Accident.

Filing a Claim

The next step is to file a claim. Before filing a claim with your insurance company, you should try to determine which party is most likely to be found “at-fault” for the collision. If the other driver was the “at-fault” party, you may be able to avoid a premium increase by filing a claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. However, there are drawbacks to pursuing a claim through another driver’s insurer, which we will discuss in a future post.

Who is “At-Fault”?

To determine which driver was “at-fault” in causing an accident, insurance companies typically look at the circumstances surrounding the particular accident to see which party was negligent or comparatively more negligent. A person is negligent when he or she fails to take precautions that a person of ordinary prudence would take under the circumstances. In assessing each party’s negligence, the insurance companies look at a variety of factors, including the following:

      • Speed each driver was traveling;
      • Which driver had the right of way;
      • The traffic pattern in which each driver was traveling;
      • Whether either driver was on a cell phone;
      • The point of impact on each driver’s car;
      • The road and weather conditions;
      • The statements of any witnesses, including drivers.

Importantly, police officers also use these factors when they are called to an accident scene to write a report or issue citations. Often, the crash report issued by the responding police officer will provide the officer’s description of the events surrounding the collision, as well as any citations issued to the involved drivers. If the other driver was cited for a moving violation, there is a good chance he or she is the “at-fault” party. If you were the party that received the citation, then, unfortunately, you will probably be found at least partially “at-fault.” However, that’s not necessarily the end of the story. A skilled attorney may be able to mitigate or even nullify the prejudicial effect of a bad police report, especially where the investigating officer has relied on bad evidence or an inaccurate (or dishonest) eyewitness.

What’s Next?

This list is only a starting point in assessing your percentage of negligence versus the negligence of the other driver. We know that a car accident can be an overwhelming experience. If you were injured in a car accident and are having trouble assessing your level of fault in the accident, a skilled personal injury attorney can help guide you through the process.

Remember also to check out the following helpful tips:

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident or pedestrian accident and needs to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney, contact the lawyers at Armstrong & Lee LLP at (832) 709-1124 to discuss your case.

Photography Credit: J. Patric Schneider, Houston Chronicle