When a car accident occurs, the details of the accident can appear confusing. In the moment, it might not be clear to you whether you or the other driver is at fault, especially if you have been injured. Fault does need to be determined, and there are a number of indicators that point to which party caused the accident. Your memory of the moments leading up to impact might not be clear, but the aftermath contains enough information to piece together a picture.
Factors at the scene that reveal fault
The following factors can be used in determining who is at fault in an accident:
- Location of damage to the car — If one car hits another vehicle from behind, then that driver is likely at fault.
- Type, speed and trajectory of impact — If one car shows significantly more damage or was hit at higher speed, that might indicate fault.
- Who broke a law — If one driver was speeding, ran a light or made an illegal turn, then that driver is at fault.
- Special conditions — If one driver was intoxicated, texting or speaking on a handheld cell phone, then that driver is at fault.
The police report is an excellent source of information regarding fault. Be sure to ask for a copy of the report after you have made your statement.
Considering comparative negligence
California is a comparative fault state. This means that if a person is injured in an accident, but a jury can establish that the person did not take reasonable care to prevent the accident, then the injured party’s award will be reduced on the basis of their being partially at fault. In the case of a car crash, if one driver is speeding (breaking a law) and another car makes a left turn but does not estimate the speed and distance correctly and the cars collide, even though the first driver clearly was at fault for breaking a law, the second driver did not employ reasonable caution and is therefore also at fault to some extent.
If you have been injured in a car accident that you did not cause, speak to a car accident attorney about your options for receiving compensation.