In most car accident cases, one driver will be at fault and the other will be victims of that person’s actions. However, in some cases, neither party will be at fault as a mechanical issue or poor road conditions will leave a third-party liable for damages. How do you determine who is at fault in a car accident?
The Police May Make an Initial Determination
After two cars collide or a car collides with another object or person, the driver is legally obligated to call the police. An officer will come to the scene of the accident and make a tentative determination as to who was at fault. However, this is based only on what the officer can see and what a witness or a driver may say. Therefore, it cannot be used as the final word as to who actually caused the accident to happen.
How Did the Accident Happen?
There are some instances in which it may be relatively obvious who caused the crash. For instance, if a driver admits that he or she made a left-turn into oncoming traffic, he or she is going to be deemed as the person who caused the accident. The same is true for those who hit another vehicle from behind. This is because drivers are supposed to keep their eyes on the road at all times and keep a safe following distance in case a car brakes or swerves unexpectedly. This is often true even if a driver intentionally hits his or her brakes when someone is following too closely.
Was the Driver Distracted?
If a driver was determined to be distracted at the time of an accident, he or she is going to be held liable. Examples of distracted driving include talking on a cell phone, changing a radio station or talking to a passenger in the car. Drivers may still be distracted by a cell phone even if they are using a hands-free unit to conduct the conversation or to send a text message. Technically, the act of thinking about work or something other than the road while operating a motor vehicle is classified as distracted driving.
Was the Driver Impaired?
Drunk driving is a serious problem that is one of the leading causes of fatal accidents. If a driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of an accident, he or she is generally at fault for that crash even if his or her blood alcohol content was lower than the legal limit.
Drivers can be impaired by substances other than alcohol. For example, drivers who are impaired on a prescription sleep aid or have taken marijuana just before getting in the car can be considered impaired. In addition to being liable for the accident, that person could be charged with DUI.
Was a Driver Behaving Aggressively?
Drivers who act in a manner that could put people in danger may be liable for an accident even if they didn’t directly cause it. For instance, if a driver ran a red light and caused another vehicle to stop or swerve to avoid a crash, the initial driver is responsible for anything that happens afterward.
It is possible that the driver who stopped or swerved is hit from behind or crashes into a concrete median. Since the driver who acted aggressively started the chain reaction, he or she is liable for the result. Other examples of aggressive driving include driving too fast for road conditions or failing to obey traffic signals other than traffic lights.
Did a Driver Admit Fault?
If a driver admits fault, he or she is generally liable for the crash even if he or she did nothing wrong. While an attorney may be able to uncover evidence that could get that person off the hook legally, it will be a lot harder to do. This is especially true if the confession was made of sound mind and free will.
Car accidents can cause significant property damage as well as emotional damage to those who are involved in them. Therefore, it is important that the person who caused it be named as the liable party. This allows others to collect compensation for medical bills and other costs that they may incur through no fault of their own.