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How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

Posted on May 24, 2021 in

Determining fault for your car accident is an important step toward recovering compensation for your medical bills and property repairs. In Arizona, if you didn’t cause the crash, you are not financially responsible for related damage. Before you can recover a monetary award, you or your Queen Creek car accident attorney must determine and prove someone else’s fault. Learn how fault is determined in a car accident to understand what to expect from your case.

Evidence Evaluation

Evidence refers to information or facts that help determine whether a belief is true. During a car accident case, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence. This means that an injured party, or plaintiff, needs enough clear evidence to convince a judge or jury that a defendant is more likely than not responsible for causing the collision before the plaintiff can recover compensation. Determining fault requires careful evaluation and collection of key evidence against the defendant.

Evidence in a car accident case may include:

  • Police reports
  • Citations
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Photographs
  • Surveillance footage
  • Cell phone records
  • Medical records
  • Testimony from experts

Evaluating all of the evidence available can help an insurance company, judge or jury determine who is to blame for the crash. Note that a police report alone does not determine fault. Law enforcement does not have the power to assign civil liability for a car accident. Instead, the report will contain the officer’s opinion as to who or what caused the crash. This can serve as evidence during a car accident claim but is not a confirmation of fault alone.

Traffic Laws

For the most part, any driver who violated a traffic law will be held responsible for a related car accident. Common infractions include speeding, texting while driving, running a red light, making an unsafe lane change, failing to yield the right-of-way and driving under the influence.

If there is proof that one of the drivers involved in a car accident broke a traffic law, such as a citation from law enforcement, this can be enough to establish that driver’s fault for the collision. If the other driver also bore part of the blame for the crash, however, both drivers can share financial responsibility in Arizona through the state’s comparative fault law. Shared fault will reduce the plaintiff’s financial recovery.

Location of Damage

A careful examination of both damaged vehicles can help determine fault for a car accident. Where the cars are damaged can show where they collided, piecing together an account as to how the crash happened and which driver might be at fault. For example, damage to the broadside of Car A and the front of Car B can tell the narrative that Car B ran a red light and crashed into the side of Car A, placing fault with the driver of Car B.

A crash reconstruction expert can carefully examine the damage to both vehicles to reconstruct how the collision had to have happened to cause the type, extent and location of the damage. From there, the reconstruction expert can determine fault based on which driver was in the wrong. Crash reconstruction based on vehicle damage can prove mistakes that cause car accidents, such as tailgating and distracted driving.

Admittance of Fault

In some cases, a driver or another party admits fault for a car accident. An admittance of guilt can make an investigation unnecessary and automatically place financial responsibility on the person who confessed to causing the crash.

This is why it is critical not to admit fault for a car accident. Wait for an investigation to determine who or what caused the crash instead. There may be another cause that you are unaware of, such as the other driver’s shared fault or a roadway defect. For assistance determining or proving fault for a car accident in Arizona, contact an attorney.