How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident? The Ultimate Guide


In the whirlwind of an accident, sometimes you gave a clear idea of who’s at fault, and other times it’s much more difficult to make a solid decision.

Anyone who’s been involved in an auto accident will want to know how is fault determined in a car accident. After all, depending on who’s at fault, there will be compensation to be made, as well as insurance premiums to hike up. If the whole process seems like it’s written in a different language, no worries. You’ve come to the right place.

Keep on reading to learn all about how is fault determined in a car accident, what “fault” even means when it comes to insurance, and the most common accident cases and how they determine who’s at fault.

“Fault” in Insurance: The Definition

Before starting our deep dive into the intricacies of the fault and no-fault laws, let’s ensure that you have a solid understanding of what “fault” actually means when it comes to insurance.

Sure, it sounds quite simple on the surface. The one who’s the perpetrator of the accident is the one who’s at fault, right?

Unfortunately, things usually are a bit more complex than that. For instance, if you get rear-ended due to the negligence of the driver in front of you to stop in time, then it’s clear that the other driver is the one who’s at fault.

On the other hand, if you’re in a big collision with multiple drivers, then things can get a bit muddled.

Generally speaking, it’s the job of the insurance company to determine who’s at fault, thus who’s the one responsible for paying for the damages.

Sadly enough, not all insurer handles coverage and claims the same way. Also, depending on your state of residence, there are separate laws regarding car insurance that might change things up.

The No-Fault State vs. Tort State Insurance Laws Dilemma

This brings us to the core regulations of car insurance coverage, where some states are “no-fault” states, and others are considered to be “tort” states.

Basically, in no-fault states, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. Every driver involved in a car accident will go to their auto insurance provider for the needed coverage for medical expenses and other damages, regardless of who caused the crash in the first place.

However, when it comes to tort states, the insurers are responsible for investigating who’s at fault, the one who caused the crash.

This way, the car insurance company of the driver at fault will be the one responsible for paying for the damages. Sometimes, drivers would have to sue the other party to claim their damages.

More likely than not, you reside in a tort state. There are only 12 states that have no-fault coverage. Within those 12 states, there are three of them who give you the option of choosing whether you’ll want to go with tort or no-fault coverage. Those are Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Kentucky.

In the other nine states, you don’t have a choice. All drivers are required to carry no-fault coverage. Those states are Utah, North Dakota, Michigan, Kansas, New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Florida.

How Is Fault Determined In a Car Accident?

Needless to say, it’s a complicated process that involves many different factors.

Generally speaking, every involved party needs to provide critical information about what happened, which can also involve bystanders who were present at the time of the accident.

As we’ve previously discussed, it’s the responsibility of the insurance company to determine who caused or contributed to the accident. They might come to a quick decision when it comes to clear-cut accidents, or if it’s understood that all parties share fault, especially in multi-car accidents.

In those cases, all the involved insurance companies will cover the costs of the medical treatments for injuries or even the repair (or replacement) costs for the vehicles.

Not all parties will shell out the same amount for damages though. There is a percentage of fault that can add to the complexity of determining who’s at fault. For example, you’ll hear about a lot of cases where more than one driver was held liable for the crash.

Yet, the insurance company of the one at fault might agree to 70% of the damages, while the other insurance company is held responsible for the remaining 30%.

This is where filing an auto accident case if partially at fault becomes a nightmare without having an attorney on hand.

Common at-Fault Cases

There are some general rules that your court of law will keep in mind. Here are some of the most common ones.

Rear-End Collisions

The rule of thumb, in this case, is that if a vehicle gets hit from behind, then the rear driver is the one at fault.

After all, your traditional traffic rules require a specific amount of space between the moving vehicles, which gives some allowance in case the front driver happens to suddenly break. Thus, the other driver must have been following too closely, which caused the collision to occur.

Left-Hand Turn Accidents

Since the driver in the oncoming traffic has the right of way, if another driver hits them as they’re making a left turn, they’re the ones generally at fault.

The one who’s making the turn is supposed to take a breather and wait until it’s completely safe to make the turn. Yet, there might be other factors that might cause the fault to be divided across the drivers involved.

Admitting Fault

This one is a bit tricky.

In the haze of an accident, a driver might admit their fault, regardless of whether they were actually at fault or not. The insurance adjusters might even attempt to assign all of the “fault” on the shoulders of the driver who apologies.

It’s crucial to have your attorney with you when you’re talking to insurance adjusters at any point in time.

Determining Car Accident Fault: Unlocked

We know how overwhelming it can be to try to understand your legal rights in the midst of a car accident, as well as deciphering who’s at fault.

Hopefully, our guide into the intricacies of how is fault determined in a car accident has shed some light on your situation. If you liked our little explainer article, you’ll want to check out our law section for more tips and advice.


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