Car accidents: Proving fault

If you are involved in an automobile accident, your ability to support the other driver’s liability may be crucial to obtaining compensation for your injuries or property damage. Learn the fundamental procedures you can use to get any necessary proof.  

In the majority of states, if you are in a car accident, you must go through the other driver’s insurance company to get money for your injuries and property damage. You will need to sue the other motorist if the insurance provider rejects coverage. It will be necessary to demonstrate that the other motorist was at fault in both situations.

Car accidents and the law

Auto accidents are typically covered by negligence law. You must prove that the other driver’s negligence (or carelessness) caused the accident. However, if you were also negligent, your damages may be reduced.

Negligence legislation generally applies to auto accidents. You must demonstrate that the collision was brought on by the other driver’s negligence or carelessness. However, your damages can be diminished if you were equally careless.

No-fault laws have been enacted in the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah; see more below.

The scene of the accident

Observe whatever guidelines your insurance provider gave you on what to do in the event of a car accident. No matter if you live in a no-fault or an at-fault state in an automobile accident, you should:

  • Call 911 to report the accident and request medical assistance. Do not provide medical treatment unless you are qualified to do so. However, if someone is in danger of death (such as from a vehicle fire or lying on the road), you may move the person out of danger.
  • Put on your vehicle’s four-way flashers, and set out warning devices if you have them.
  • Avoid making statements to anyone other than is necessary to exchange required information.
  • Exchange information with the other driver. Obtain the other driver’s name, address, driver’s license number, state of issue, make, model, and year of their vehicle, and their insurance company’s name, address, and policy number.
  • Take photographs of all sides of each vehicle; and of the scene from various angles, showing the location of vehicles, skid marks or broken glass on the roadway, and the location of any traffic signs or signals.
  • Draw a diagram of the scene. Note the direction each vehicle was traveling; the point of impact; the ending position of each vehicle; a road, traffic, and weather conditions; the speed you were traveling; the estimated speed of the other vehicle; any statements made by the other driver; and other facts that relate to how the accident occurred.   
  • Obtain the names and badge numbers of any law enforcement officers and ambulance or tow truck personnel (and the company name) that come to the scene. 
  • Obtain the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses, including passengers in the other vehicle.
  • Check for traffic cameras; your accident may have been filmed.

Police report

If the police came to the scene, there will be a police report. Ask the officer how and when you may obtain a copy of the police report or contact the law enforcement agency. The report may include the officer’s evaluation of who was at fault and whether any traffic citations were issued.

Sometimes police officers do not go to an accident unless someone is injured, in which case you will need to report the accident at the nearest police station, which may result in further police investigation.

Obtain a copy of the police report, and provide the insurance company a copy as well. There may be a process for you to object to the police report if it contains false information, but there is no assurance that it will be altered.

Traffic laws

If you can demonstrate that the other motorist broke the law, it will assist. Every state has a set of laws or a code governing traffic. The state’s driver’s licence office often has a pamphlet with a summary of these legislation that is accessible offline or online. For items that could be relevant, such as “distracted driving,” “right-of-way,” “roadway markings, signs, and signals,” “rules of the road,” “speed limits,” “traffic laws,” “vehicle equipment,” etc., check the table of contents or index.

Get the code or legislation number for the rule if you discover one that you think has been broken. Ask the licencing organisation for the number if it isn’t in the brochure. A legal library, which is typically located in the neighbourhood courthouse, or your local library may also have the information.

If the other motorist was talking or texting at the time of the collision, cell phone company records can reveal it; however, you might need the help of a car accident lawyer to collect this proof.

Nature of the collision

An insurance provider will infrequently contest which motorist was to blame in specific circumstances:

Rear-end collisions

Even if the vehicle in front slams on the brakes, the driver must maintain a safe distance behind the other vehicle and pay close attention to stop properly. If you were hit from behind, the other motorist was nearly always at fault. However, your recovery may be diminished if you were also negligent (for example, if your brake lights were out or you had a flat tyre but didn’t pull off the road).

Left-turn collisions

A driver making a left turn is negligent if an incoming car hits them since they are required to yield to oncoming traffic. Exceptions are permitted if the approaching vehicle was travelling at a high rate of speed or ran a red light. To show these facts, though, might be challenging.

What is no-fault insurance?

Some jurisdictions have implemented a no-fault vehicle accident system, which mandates that all drivers obtain no-fault accident insurance, in an effort to streamline matters and shorten court dockets. Your own insurance company receives a no-fault state automobile accident claim, which it then pays for your injuries regardless of who was at fault. The only things you can often collect in a no-fault lawsuit are medical costs and lost wages. Depending on the state, you might still be allowed to sue after a no-fault vehicle accident in certain situations. And each state has its own laws on property damage.