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How To Determine Fault in a Car Accident: What You Need To Know

Have you been involved in an auto accident? You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and property damage from the at-fault driver. However, before you can file an insurance claim, you need to prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident. This is often a challenging process and depends on the circumstances of the accident.

How fault is determined in a car accident depends on several factors, such as:

  • The physical evidence you collect at the scene of the accident, including photographic evidence, videos, witness statements, and physical damage

  • The details documented by the police report, including the location, time, weather, road conditions, and citations

  • Investigations conducted by the car insurance companies of the drivers involved

  • State negligence and fault laws

In general, fault is determined by the car insurance company of the other driver’s insurer. They carry out thorough investigations, collect and analyze evidence, and assess damages. Depending on the outcome of their investigation, adjusters determine who is liable for the accidents and the percentage of their fault.

Sometimes, it is obvious who is at fault, such as in rear-end accidents. However, it is not always clear who is held legally responsible, especially if one or more drivers are involved or when a city bus hits your car. The involved parties in the car accident may have conflicting accounts of what happened and will try to minimize their fault. Sometimes, the involved drivers share some degree of fault for the accident.

    How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

    When an accident occurs, one or more drivers may be at fault for causing the injuries and damages. Proving fault in a car accident case is not always easy. That’s because it depends on various factors and the available information. Sometimes, witnesses can help by providing their accounts of what happened.

    Insurance adjusters are generally responsible for determining fault by carrying out impartial investigations. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will assign your case a claims adjuster who will review the physical evidence, which may include:

    • Photos of the vehicle damage and skid marks

    • Injuries as documented in medical reports and bills

    • Statements from the drivers, passengers, and witnesses

    They also check if any traffic cameras captured the accident scene and consult with law enforcement officers and other experts.

    Georgia is an at-fault state, so recoverable damages in a car accident claim are calculated based on each involved party’s fault percentage. Under the modified comparative negligence doctrine, one driver can be 80 percent at fault and the other 20 percent. Any party with a fault percentage greater than 50 percent cannot recover any compensation and is liable for the other party’s damages.

    Therefore, as long as one’s fault is determined to be less than 50 percent, they can recover damages equal to the other driver’s fault percentage.

    Determining Fault in Court

    If car accident fault is unclear or disputed, the drivers may need to go to court to resolve the issue. The court will decide who is liable based on the evidence and testimony presented by both sides, as well as applicable state laws. 

    While most car accidents do not go to court, it may be the only option to get the compensation you need to cover your expenses. If you find yourself stonewalled by the other driver’s insurer, consider contacting a lawyer.

    An experienced car accident lawyer can help you file a complaint with the court and present the necessary supporting documents. They are also excellent negotiators, so they may still be able to secure an out-of-court settlement with the insurance company.

    Different States Have Different Rules for Fault

    The state where the accident happened can affect how fault is determined after a car accident and how compensation is calculated. There are two types of states when it comes to fault, no-fault states and at-fault states. Here’s how they differ:

    • No-fault states: There are 12 no-fault states where each driver’s insurer pays for their damages, regardless of who was at fault. The involved parties cannot sue each other unless they meet certain thresholds of injury or damage.
    • At-fault states: In these states, the negligent driver is responsible for paying for the other driver’s damages. The drivers can choose to file with the other driver’s insurance company or directly sue them.

    When it comes to negligence, different states follow different approaches when assigning liability in negligence cases. The two broad categories are contributory negligence and comparative negligence.

    • Contributory negligence states: In these states, a driver who is even slightly at fault cannot receive compensation, and drivers can only sue each other if they are entirely blameless.
    • Comparative negligence states: There are two sub-categories of this doctrine, pure and modified. In pure comparative negligence states, a driver can recover compensation even if they are 99 percent at fault. However, in modified comparative negligence states, a driver can only recover compensation if their fault is less than a certain threshold. In Georgia, the threshold is 50 percent, so only those 49 percent at fault can recover compensation equal to the at-fault driver’s fault percentage.

    Fault determination in auto accidents can be a complex and challenging process. It requires carrying out thorough investigations and being very familiar with state laws. Therefore, knowing your rights and responsibilities after a car accident is essential, and a car accident attorney can help with that.

    How the Dressie Law Firm Can Help You

    Determining who’s at fault for your car accident can be challenging and time-consuming because it requires investigating, collecting evidence, and negotiating. A personal injury attorney can help you with these steps and protect your rights.

    Here’s how the Dressie Law Firm can help you:

    • We obtain copies of your accident’s police report and medical records. We also work to obtain any CCTV footage that may have captured the accident.

    • We interview witnesses, review evidence, and evaluate damage and injuries.

    • Our personal injury attorney can explain your rights and legal options.

    • We can negotiate a fair settlement that covers your current and future medical expenses.

    • We can take your claim to court if necessary.

    Schedule your free consultation today.

    The Dressie Law Firm Can Help You

    If you or a loved one is a victim of a reckless or negligent driver, we want you to know that the law is on your side and so is the Dressie Law Firm.

    Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!