How Do Courts Determine Liability in Car Accidents?
Who was at fault? Do each of you bear partial responsibility? Find out how fault is determined in a car accident, and what you can do to help win your case.
Determining Liability in Car Accidents
Wham! So who is to blame for the motor vehicle crash? You or the other person?
If it’s your fault, your insurance premiums might rise. Or if you’ve had multiple other accidents or lose your license, you might get the boot from your insurance company.
This is how the courts determine liability:
If fault in your case isn’t clear, the evidence you gather at the scene of the accident helps determine the degree of fault for each party (called “proportionate responsibility” in Texas). So, take lots of pictures of the accident scene, collect witness information, and driver information. Keep a log of any physical pain you experience in the coming days and weeks.
Verbally Admitting Fault at the Scene
It’s tempting to say, “I’m sorry!” to the other driver to calm yourself, and them, down. Don’t do it!
Because, this can indicate some fault for you, even if you did nothing to cause the accident. Let the police, insurance company, and jurors analyze the facts and determine fault.
This is pretty straightforward if police come to the scene. Just be honest and tell them the truth.
But, it can get tricky, because police in some areas don’t come to accidents if they don’t involve injuries. If that’s your situation, report your accident to the nearest police department. Investigators may follow up with your case to determine fault.
The Fun Legal Language in Plain English
So you got the more practical side of things. Jurors do look at that in determining fault.
More specifically, you need to show the other driver was negligent. Legally, that means the other driver must have engaged in careless behavior that caused your accident.
To prove negligence, you have to successfully argue these 5 elements:
- Did the other driver owe a duty to you? For example, all drivers bear the duty of driving safely to other drivers and pedestrians.
- Did the other driver breach their duty? If they weren’t driving safely in any way, your argument passes this test.
- Show cause-in-fact. In legal language, they call this the “but-for” test. For example, “but for” the other driver running a red light, you would not have been injured.
- Account for “proximate cause.” Basically, this legal test determines whether it’s fair to attribute your injuries to another driver’s actions.
Say you break a leg in an auto accident. That’s clearly attributable to the other driver. A few weeks later, you experience head, neck, and back pain. It’s not as clear the other driver caused those problems.
- Did you experience damages? Damages get tricky. Damage to your vehicle is clear, but amounts can be argued. Medical bills can be argued, and so can pain and suffering.
That’s how personal injury lawyers successfully argue auto accident claims. Remember to do your part, if you’re able, because that makes it easier to win your case.