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Determining Fault for a Car Accident

Before you take any legal action to pursue monetary damages as a result of a car accident, you must first find out who was at fault. How do you determine who was at fault? Well there is no exact answer to that question but there are a few ways one can find out.


The first and most common way is to obtain the police accident report. After every reported accident, local law enforcement will have an officer on scene to investigate the accident. Upon concluding their investigation, the officer will write a report. This report should give you everything you would need to know about the accident which includes, but is not limited to, where the accident occurred, who struck who, and the police officer’s determination of who contributed to the accident. In most cases, if a driver hits another car by rear ending the other car, or makes a left hand turn in front of the vehicle in the right of way, the officer will conclude that the driver who hit the other car was at fault.

Another way to determine if a driver is at fault is if there were any moving violations. This sounds quite simple and it is. So if a driver hits another car because they ran a red light or blew through a stop sign, then that violation will put the violating driver at fault.

A third way to determine fault is by way of admission. One thing that police officers and insurance companies look for when there is a car accident is an admission by any of the parties. This admission can be as blatant as “I ran the red light and then I hit the other car” or as innocent as “Oh I’m sorry, I did not see you there”. Though this is not the strongest way to determine if a party is at fault, it still is common among drivers and effective if there is no other evidence.

A fourth way to determine who is at fault after a car accident is getting a statement from witnesses. If any are present, the investigating police officer will question them and include their statement on the report.

Free Consultation with Auger & Auger

“We will provide a free consultation and give you a preliminary determination on fault based on the facts and circumstances surrounding your accident that you provide when you call our office.  Our attorneys will pull up the accident report online, if available, and contact any witnesses listed to help give you a professional opinion of your situation.  We look forward to hearing from you”, Herb Auger, partner.

Every state has its own rules in determining fault in car accidents

Once fault has been established in an accident the next step is to determine how the state you are in allocates fault.  North Carolina, for example, follows Pure Contributory negligence, meaning if the plaintiff is barred from recovery for just the smallest amount of contributory negligence, even 1% (AL, DC, MD, NC, and VA).  South Carolina, however, follows a Modified Comparative Fault, 51% Bar Rule, in determining negligence.  Under this rule, as long as the plaintiff is 50% or less at fault, he can recover damages, but if plaintiff’s negligence is 51% or greater, he is barred from recovery(CT, DE, HI, IL, IN, IA, MA, MI, MN, MT, NV, NH, NJ, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TX, VT, WI, and WY).  Another form of Modified Comparative Negligence is the 50% Bar Rule, in which the plaintiff is barred when plaintiff’s negligence exceeds 49% (AR, CO, GA, ID, KS, ME, NE, ND, TN, UT, and WV).  In states following Pure Comparative Fault, plaintiffs are not barred from recovery if they are partially at fault, but their recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault (AK, AZ, CA, FL, KY, LA, MS, MO, NM, NY, RI, and WA).

It goes without saying that you need to be careful when driving. We live in a fast paced world where things can happen in the blink of an eye so staying sharp while behind the wheel is very important. In the legal world, it is also very important to pay close attention because you never know when an accident might occur and if you are involved in one you would want to make sure you are allowed to pursue the appropriate remedies. Remember to drive safely and to contact an attorney if you have any legal questions regarding your state’s law.

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