Determining Fault After a Car Accident

How is fault determined? Here’s what you should know.
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If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important to determine who was at fault for the crash. If you did something wrong and you were the cause of the accident, then you might want to prepare yourself in case the injured party sues you for damages. If you did everything right and you were hurt in an auto accident, it is still vital to determine who was actually responsible for your injuries.

The at-fault party will be responsible for paying for medical costs, lost wages and property damage inflicted on the innocent party. Unfortunately, insurance companies and lawyers representing guilty parties try to play games and make it more difficult to make a clear at-fault determination. No matter what percentage of the accident was your fault, you need to engage an experienced personal injury lawyer in California to help ensure you have the best outcome possible.

How fault is found after a car accident in California

Drivers are expected to operate their vehicles responsibly. If you are hurt as the result of another driver recklessly operating a vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation. At fault drivers shouldn’t be able to walk away without consequences. Fault can be determined in a number of ways, depending on the specific facts of your case.

  • Fault determined by location of impact. Where a vehicle is struck can be very helpful in determining who was at fault. For example, there is a car with damage to the front end and a second car with damage to the side: it is likely that the first car caused the accident by t-boning the other vehicle. The location of the damage can be very telling.
  • Interviews with witnesses. In some cases, there may be witnesses other than you and the other driver who saw the accident. These additional witnesses can be vital resources in proving that the other driver was the ultimate cause of the crash. You should ask anyone that you see on scene if they saw what happened. Also, ask witnesses if they would be willing to provide a statement. More often than not, the police will gather statements from any witnesses, but some of The May Firm’s clients have elected to speak to people at the scene of the crash themselves as well.
  • Determining fault by location of vehicles. In plenty of crashes, the cars involved will come to a stop close to the location of impact. This is not always the case, but it does happen quite a bit. After an accident, if it is clear that one car is on the wrong side of the road while the other car is not, there is strong evidence that the person on the wrong side is responsible. However, because the force of the impact can influence where a car comes to rest, this method of determining fault should (and is) used in conjunction with other means.
  • Traffic laws. A person is negligent when he or she violates a traffic law and causes an accident that the law seeks to prevent. To be negligent means to be at fault. A good example is Vehicle Code 21658, which is California’s lane straddling statute. Essentially, a driver must stay in his or her own lane. If a driver fails to stay in his or her own lane and strikes another car in a different lane, then the driver who drifted out of his or her lane is responsible for the accident.
  • Rear-end collisions. There is a general rule that if a driver strikes another vehicle from behind, the driver who hit the other vehicle from behind is responsible for the accident. Drivers are expected to follow behind other vehicles at a reasonable distance to avoid rear-end collisions. If Driver A suddenly brakes and Driver B slams into Driver A’s rear bumper, Driver B was following too closely and is at fault for the accident. This is generally true even if Driver A didn’t have a “good” reason to hit the brakes.


Disclaimer: Information on this page is designed for general information purposes only and should not be interpreted as being legal advice or a legal opinion on specific facts or circumstances. You should always consult with an attorney before making a decision about your case. Pages are updated periodically but information provided on this page may not be up to date as circumstances may change over time. Please see our [LEGAL DISCLAIMERS] page for additional legal disclaimers.

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