How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

how is fault determined in a car accident

When a car accident happens, one of the first and most important questions is: who was at fault? The answer can have serious real-world implications, from insurance rates to legal liability. That’s why insurance providers, law enforcement, and the courts all take the fault determination process so seriously.

So how exactly do they go about figuring out who bears responsibility for a collision? It’s not as simple as pointing fingers. Instead, it involves carefully examining all the available evidence – from the initial police report to the physical clues left at the scene.

Claims adjusters and legal teams dig into the details to reconstruct exactly what happened and identify which driver failed to uphold their duty of care on the road. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the key factors considered in this process.

New York’s Pure Comparative Negligence Laws

New York adheres to the doctrine of pure comparative negligence, which acknowledges the complex nature of fault in car accidents. Under this system, fault can be allocated among the parties involved based on their respective degrees of negligence or recklessness.

For example, if Driver A is found to be 70% at fault and Driver B is 30% at fault, their respective compensation for damages would be reduced accordingly. In other words, Driver B could reasonably expect to receive 70% of any compensation or damages awarded, whereas Driver A would only be entitled to receive 30%.

This approach aims to hold all parties accountable while still allowing for fair compensation, even if the injured party bears some responsibility for the accident.

Establishing Liability

At the core of fault determination lies the concept of negligence – a failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury to others. In the context of car accidents, negligence can take various forms, such as speeding, running a red light, or driving under the influence.

To establish liability, four critical elements must be proven: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

  • Duty: All drivers owe a duty of care to operate their vehicles responsibly and avoid actions that could put others at risk.
  • Breach: There must be evidence that the driver breached this duty of care through negligent or reckless actions.
  • Causation: The driver’s breach of duty must be directly linked to the accident and any resulting injuries or damages.
  • Damages: The injured party must have suffered quantifiable losses, such as medical expenses, property damage, or lost wages.

Key Evidence Considered in Determining Fault After a Car Accident

When two cars collide, it’s not always clear who was responsible. Insurance companies, law enforcement, and courts dig deep to uncover the facts and appropriately assign liability.

Several key types of evidence are typically considered:

  • Police Reports and Accident Scene Investigations — the police report serves as a vital piece of documentation, capturing details such as the location, time, weather conditions, and statements from involved parties and witnesses.
  • Eyewitness Testimonies and Statements—Eyewitness accounts can provide valuable insights into the events leading up to an accident. However, eyewitness testimonies can be subjective and prone to biases.
  • Vehicle Damage Patterns and Collision Analysis — skilled accident reconstructionist and engineers often analyze vehicle damage patterns, including dents, scrapes, and crush patterns, to determine the angles of impact, velocity, and potential evasive maneuvers the drivers take.
  • Photographic and Video Evidence—Traffic cameras, dashcams, and bystander recordings can provide invaluable footage of the accident, capturing critical moments leading up to the collision.

The police report filed at the scene is often the starting point. But the goal is to look at the full picture – everything from traffic laws to the physical evidence – to pinpoint responsibility as accurately as possible. It’s not always a simple process, but getting the right information can make all the difference in how a car accident claim is resolved.

The Role of Insurance Companies in Fault Determination

When a car accident occurs, car insurance companies will launch their investigations to determine fault and liability. Insurers will gather evidence and interview involved parties and witnesses.

If you disagree with an insurance company’s determination, you may have the right to dispute their findings by providing additional evidence or consulting with legal experts to strengthen your case.

Mediation or arbitration may sometimes be necessary to resolve disputes between insurance companies or claimants. It’s essential to be persistent, document all communications, and be prepared to advocate for your rights and fair compensation.

Potential Consequences of Being Found At Fault

If you are found to be at fault for a car accident in New York, you may be held financially responsible for the resulting damages, injuries, and losses sustained by the other parties involved.

This liability can include:

  • Property damage to vehicles or other property
  • Medical expenses for injuries suffered by others
  • Lost wages or income for those unable to work due to their injuries
  • Pain and suffering or emotional distress resulting from the accident

Being found at fault for a car accident can also have long-term implications for your insurance rates and premiums. Insurance companies view at-fault accidents as an increased risk factor, and they may raise your premiums or even drop your coverage altogether if you are deemed a high-risk driver.

Call Held, Held & Held for a Free Case Review

At Held, Held & Held, our car accident lawyers are dedicated to protecting your rights and ensuring you receive fair compensation for damages and injuries.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, don’t hesitate to contact Held, Held & Held today for a free case review. Our attorneys will guide you through every step of the process, from investigating the accident and gathering evidence to negotiating with insurance companies and, if necessary, pursuing legal action on your behalf.

Remember, you don’t have to face the challenges of an accident alone. Let Held, Held & Held be your unwavering advocate in pursuing justice and fair compensation.

Author Bio

Edward Held is the founding member of Held, Held & Held, a family-owned multi-practice law firm in Brooklyn, NY. With more than 40 years of experience, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including personal injury, real estate, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and estate law.

Edward received his Juris Doctor from New York Law School and is a former President of the New York Law School Alumni Association Board of Directors. He has received numerous accolades for his work and has been admitted into the Supreme Court of the United States and the New York State Courts.

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