The question of how fault is determined in a car accident can have different answers depending on the circumstances. If a civil lawsuit goes to trial, a jury will ultimately determine who was at fault. Determining fault is different when it comes to insurance claims.
No matter who ultimately determines fault for a car accident, the same factors apply. An injured driver must make a case that negligence led to their injuries before they are entitled to monetary compensation. A car accident attorney from our firm could help make the case for negligence. You should only have to focus on your recovery at this time; we’ll do all the heavy lifting.
Understanding Fault in a Motor Vehicle Accident
Proving fault after a motor vehicle accident involves a legal standard known as negligence. If a plaintiff can show that the defendant in a civil lawsuit acted negligently, they could be entitled to a monetary award.
In total, there are four elements required to prove negligence. A plaintiff must demonstrate all four of the elements of negligence to succeed with their personal injury suit. They are as follows:
Duty of Care
The first element of negligence is known as the duty of care. For a person involved in a car accident to recover compensation for their injuries, they must show the other driver owed them a duty of care.
Demonstrating this burden is often straightforward in car accident cases, as drivers owe each other a duty to operate their vehicles safely.
Breach of the Duty
After establishing that a duty is in place, a plaintiff must next show that the defendant breached it. A breached duty can occur when a careless motorist drives too fast for conditions or fails to yield the right-of-way and causes an accident.
The third element of negligence is referred to as causation. Causation is the causal link between a driver’s injuries and the breached duty of care.
This element is in place to ensure a plaintiff only secures compensation for the injuries they have suffered at the hands of the defendant.
The fourth element is damages. If the plaintiff has not suffered recoverable damages, then they are not entitled to monetary compensation, even if the other elements are met.
Some common types of damages include vehicle repair costs, lost wages, and medical expenses.
Who Determines Fault for a Motor Vehicle Accident?
Determining fault for an accident can differ significantly from one situation to the next. While the standard definition of negligence will apply in all of these cases, the party that ultimately determines who is at fault can vary.
Insurance Companies Decide Whether to Accept Fault or not
In auto insurance claims, the carrier that you pursue a claim against will ultimately decide whether to accept fault on the part of their driver or deny it. While this decision can have an impact on the potential compensation available to you, the insurance company does not have the last word on whether you recover compensation or not.
Insurance companies often rely on various sources when deciding to accept or reject fault. Their investigation usually begins with an interview with their own driver. If their driver admits to fault, the insurance companies often accept the resulting liability claim. Insurance carriers also typically review the police report when making this decision.
If the carrier ultimately denies the claim or refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, you have the option to pursue a civil lawsuit against the other driver.
A jury Decides Fault During a Civil Trial
If a settlement is not reached between the two parties, litigation is the only option for a plaintiff moving forward. When a case goes to trial, a jury will typically determine the issues of fact.
That includes deciding which party – if any – acted negligently in the motor vehicle accident.
The jury must make their decision based on the evidence presented to them. This could come in the form of witness testimony, video of the accident, or opinions by accident reconstruction experts.
Talk to an Attorney on Our Team About Determining Fault for Your Car Accident
How fault is determined in a car accident will largely depend on the approach a plaintiff has to pursuing financial compensation. During a lawsuit, it is up to the jury. During negotiations with the insurance company, both sides have the opportunity to agree on who is at fault. Determining liability is an important part of the litigation process.
The Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP has a track record of building winning negligence cases, and our team is ready to help you move forward after your accident. We can handle every aspect of your case. Call (516) 358-6900 for a free consultation with a member of the team. We want to learn the facts and get to work right away.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-358-6900