How Fault Is Determined in a Car Accident
Filing a personal injury claim after a car accident can help cover out-of-pocket expenses and other non-economic damages, but fault must first be determined. If you’re involved in a car accident in California, you may qualify for compensation, even if you are partially responsible for the crash. Here are the factors taken into account when determining fault.
California Is an At-Fault State
When filing an insurance claim, it’s important to understand the car accident rules in your state. California is an at-fault state. This means that if all parties involved in an accident exhibited negligence, ultimately causing the car accident, they will share liability.
All parties who are found at fault will be responsible for covering economic damages and non-economic damages, such as:
- Car repair
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
For example, if an Uber driver and a truck driver are speeding to catch a red light and both strike another car at the intersection, the Uber driver and truck driver would be found liable in the car accident case.
However, even if another party is clearly liable, it must be proven that party was, in fact, at fault. Therefore, in the previous example, it must be proven the other drivers were speeding and ran a red light.
Who Determines Fault?
The early stages of establishing fault begin with each party reporting the car accident to their auto insurance. Then, a claims adjuster will begin investigating the accident and reviewing the police report. Other steps include:
- Talking to the parties involved and witnesses
- Obtaining available surveillance footage
- Reviewing damages to the vehicles
- Examining medical records to determine injuries and medical bills
Insurance companies initially determine how fault is determined in a car accident. However, depending on the available evidence, both the plaintiff and defendant can contest the insurance company’s determination.
Proving Liability in a California Car Accident
For a car accident claim to be valid in California, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that the defendant acted negligently. To prove liability, you need evidence that all of the following occurred:
- The at-fault driver had a duty to operate their vehicle in a safe manner
- The at-fault driver breached that duty of care
- The at-fault driver’s negligent actions caused the accident
- The accident led to injuries or monetary losses
Laws That Can Place Someone At Fault for a Car Accident
There are certain rules that all drivers are expected to follow When they fail to act in accordance with them, they can be held liable. Common traffic laws include:
- Obeying traffic laws
- Making full stops at stop signs
- Yielding to pedestrians and bicyclists
- Exercising care by not engaging in distractions
- Driving safely and not speeding
- Not drinking and driving
From speeding to texting while driving, driver negligence can take many forms. To prove liability, an attorney will conduct a thorough investigation into the accident. This includes identifying and interviewing witnesses and consulting with outside parties, including accident reconstruction experts, as required.
How Does Fault Affect an Insurance Claim?
The degree to which a driver is found to be at fault for an accident can affect the type of settlement they receive with an insurance claim. Therefore, if a plaintiff is partially at fault for the accident, then his or her insurance claim will be affected, reducing the amount of compensation that can be collected.
What if I Am Partially At Fault?
California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that a plaintiff can recover damages even if they’re also responsible for causing the accident.
If you’re at fault for the accident in any way, the compensation you receive will be reduced by your degree of responsibility. For example, if you’re assigned 40% of fault, you’ll receive 60% of the compensation you could have earned if you were found to be 0% responsible.
Cases involving comparative negligence can be difficult to win. Working with an experienced car accident lawyer will help yield the best results.
What Are the Unique Considerations of How Fault Is Determined in California?
There are two distinct ways that an insurance company can determine fault in California. The first is to prove that a driver was “negligent.”
Common law violations include duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Evidence of these violations can be found in documents such as police reports and witness statements.
The second is to establish statutory negligence. To do so, the adjuster must prove that the driver violated a statute under the California Vehicle Code.
Typically, the police report will list if any statutes were violated. If this is the case, the at-fault party will be deemed negligent, without any additional evidence required. This is called negligence “per se.”
If a driver is found to be negligent per se, it must be proven that they did not act negligently. If they cannot do so, the law will hold them responsible.
How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident? Learn More
There are many considerations that go into determining fault in a California car accident. The state’s at-fault driver laws and pure comparative negligence rules can affect the outcome of your insurance claim.
If you have recently been injured in a car accident, it’s important to find a lawyer who can represent your best interests and help you prove liability. How is fault determined in a car accident in California? You shouldn’t have to navigate the answer on your own. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.