Determining Fault in an Automobile Accident

“Just because a person is not cited for a driving violation does not necessarily mean they did not commit a civil violation.”

It is important to determine fault after a motor vehicle accident so that damages can be properly compensated. Whoever was the legal cause of the accident is the party at fault. If there are only two cars involved, this can be relatively straightforward. The issue becomes more convoluted if there are more cars involved or a definite timeline is unable to be established for the accident.

Determining Liability

Determining liability in an auto accident is critical for several reasons. For one, determining fault helps insurance companies understand the possible liabilities. Determining fault also helps minimize confusion and resolve issues after the accident.

You might find some cases where it’s easy to determine who is at fault and how their actions contributed to the damage sustained but it’s not always easy to figure out who is at fault.

Depending upon the intensity of the accident, the person at fault must pay a sum of money to compensate for the damage caused. To avoid confusion or subsequent legal disputes, it is imperative for both parties to agree on a resolution.

How to Prove the Fault?

The fault of an accident is proven through evidence. Common types of evidence include photographs of the accident, the testimony of eyewitnesses, or police reports. The question of fault should be demonstrated at the appropriate level of proof associated with civil matters, a preponderance of the evidence. This implies that a party must only prove their position is more likely than not to have occurred.

Put another way, the party must only convince a jury there is over a 50% likelihood their version of events occurred.  It is important to note that criminal and civil issues have different burdens of proof. Additionally, the allegations are different as well. While a criminal charge may help to demonstrate negligence, a criminal charge is not necessary to create a successful civil negligence case.

How Police Determine Fault in an Automobile Accident

The police officers are accountable for preparing the accident exchange report of the auto incident, as soon as the accident is reported.

The police will interview and ask questions, not only to the drivers, but also the witnesses regarding the vehicle accident. The series of questions is inquired to conclude with a report that contains accurate and comprehensive information regarding what actually occurred. Once they are done with the interviews and decide that they have ample information, they forward the drafted report to the department. There might be a statement included in the report regarding who was at fault.

However, many police reports will not necessarily cite a driver for a driving violation or take a definitive stance on which party is at fault. However, the facts and evidence in the police report will be used to argue and allocate fault in the civil case. Just because a person is not cited for a driving violation does not necessarily mean they did not commit a civil violation. There may still be civil liability.

How Insurance Companies Determine Fault in an Automobile Accident

“Although the report from the police officers is taken into consideration while determining fault for the auto accident, remember that they do not control the result of the court case.”

When the insurance companies receive the filed claim, they have designated adjustors to look at the evidence, including the police report. Additionally, the adjusters talk to the witnesses, conduct interviews, research medical records, and review the damage to the automobile. Depending on the substance of the evidence the insurance company will either accept or deny liability.

If both sides are unable to agree on who is responsible, a lawsuit will be filed and the question of fault will be decided by a jury.

How the Court Determines Fault in an Automobile Accident

If a car accident attorney and insurance company are unable to agree on responsibility for an accident the issue must go to court. A jury will review the facts and evidence presented by both sides and determine who is responsible as well as the value of the case.

The evidence generally includes eyewitness testimony, the police report, expert witnesses (including doctors and engineers). Afterward, the court determines who was at fault depending on the evidence presented to them.

Although the report from the police officers is taken into consideration while determining fault for the auto accident, remember that they do not control the result of the court case.


Auto incidents or car accidents are complicated and overwhelming. The process of dealing with the insurance company, the police, and a court proceeding can be tough. Protect your rights by ensuring the police are thorough in their report by requesting a free consultation with a car accident attorney immediately.

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