How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident Case?

Maxwell Paderewski
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Maxwell Paderewski
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10.0Maxwell Teele Paderewski
State Bar of Texas
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The transportation industry has been marked by a major revolution across the world with the ever skyrocketing demand for driving and road transport. From motorcycles to cars to commercial trucks, there have been major steps towards setting pace in the way we commute daily. But even as we celebrate these milestones, it is also worth noting that there has been an increased rate of car accidents in equal measure, and fault is often in dispute.

While most accidents occur without hard evidence such as video recording, nearly all accidents are caused by the negligence of one or more parties. It could be as obviously as drunk driving or texting while driving, driving unsafe vehicles, failing to follow traffic signals, or poor lighting on the roads. But in one way or the other, most vehicle accidents occur because of the failure of one or more parties to adhere to a reasonable standard of care. Without hard evidence, fault is determined in a number of ways:

Through the Police

The police are always the first group of professionals to be notified once a car accident occurs. The police have been extensively trained on how to handle such matters, but in many cases, the officer will make his/her determination based on who the officer believes. If one driver is confident that she had a green light, while the other driver is pretty sure he had the green light, the officer will likely find fault with the second driver.

Once they arrive to the scene of accident, the police will start preparing a formal accident report. This report will contain the names of all people involved in the crash, their contacts and home addresses, the location of the accident, the drivers’ insurance information, and other other observations. Furthermore, they will talk to both car drivers and any witnesses and either make a determination of fault or state that fault could not be determined. If fault is decided, the officer may even give a traffic violation ticket to the at-fault driver.

Through Admission of Fault

It is human nature for a person to apologize when they make mistakes that render other parties uncomfortable or even risk their lives. For example, you may accidentally bump into another person. To show your concern for the other person, you apologize and may even asking for forgiveness.

In motor vehicle accidents, if you apologize to the other driver or party, your admission may be used against you. Even if you were never at fault, and the defendant will use your apologize as evidence that you have admitted liability. To mitigate such an occurrence, you should never apologize to the other party unless you recognize that the accident was in fact your fault. Furthermore, it is advisable not to communicate with the other driver. Avoiding such conversations will protect you from accidentally admitting fault. You should only speak to the police officer and/or any medical personnel to treat your injuries.

Through Traffic Rule Presumptions

We’ve all heard that if you rear-end someone else, you’re at fault. While this is not true 100% of the time (there are certain rare exceptions), this is the default presumption. Therefore, the party who rear-ends another vehicle has a very high burden to prove how they were not at fault. Arguments that the party in front “stopped short” are common, but often unsuccessful.

Another common traffic presumption concerns turning left. If one party is turning left and is hit by an oncoming driver, the presumption is that the party turning left is at fault. This is because the presumption is that the person turning should have yielded to oncoming traffic. While it is not always true that the person turning is at fault, there is a greater burden for this person to prove that the other driver is liable.

Through Judgment of the Truthfulness of the Parties

If the case proceeds into trial, the jury will have to determine which party they believe. As each party has the opportunity to testify, the jury will decide who they believe, and assign fault based on the total evidence presented, which includes the live testimony of the parties

Contact Our Attorneys Today

If you have been lucky enough to have avoided car accidents during your life, you very likely have friends or family who have been through such an ordeal. Whether it’s your life or someone close to you, it is likely that an auto accident that will play a role in your life. The number of negligent drivers on our roads pose a threat to anyone else using the same roads. When this happens, you have a number many factors to consider. You may have health issues, medical bills to pay, insurance companies to deal with, and car repairs to make. But the greatest worry that comes with a car accident revolves around determining who was at fault for your accident. It might seem like a clear cut case to you, but there may be a lot work needed to prove your case to a jury.

As you proceed through the car accident claim process, you must carefully documents the facts that you or your car accident lawyer collected from the scene, including photographs of the property damage, the location of the accident, and any visible injuries you have sustained. Armed with such evidence, it will be much easier to show the jury exactly how the other driver was at fault and what the damages were. But before going to trial or negotiating with your insurance company, it is important to seek the advise of an experienced car accident lawyer.

If you have been involved in a car accident and are unsure about who is at fault, get in touch with our office. Our car accident attorneys are well-seasoned to ensure that all the gray areas in your case are addressed effectively to maximize your chances of succeeding with your claim. Call us today for a free consultation.

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