By Joe Osborne
May 19, 2022

How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

Determining fault is at the heart of any car accident that involves injuries and property damage. The answer that is determined can have a dramatic effect on the parties involved in the accident, including whose insurance will cover damages and repairs, and whether there is someone who is subject to citations, fines, or even criminal liability.So, what happens when the police who respond to an accident don’t issue any tickets, and they don’t assign fault to a specific driver? Do insurance companies have the authority to assign fault? Can they be disputed if you disagree with their findings?The following page answers basic questions about who determines fault and responsibility after a car accident. If you need legal support for your auto accident, or representation while negotiating with insurance companies, call Osborne & Francis at (561) 293-2600 at your earliest convenience.

How Do Police Determine Fault in an Accident?

When officers respond to the scene of a car accident, they are responsible for creating a police report about what occurred. They will interview the parties involved in the accident, as well as any witnesses who saw it happen, to attempt to piece together how the accident occurred. When they have determined that they have enough information, they will turn the report in to their department.The police report may contain a statement about who is at fault for the accident based on their professional opinion. But, many police reports detailing car accidents do not include a determination of who is at fault. It’s also important to keep in mind that even when they do state who they believe caused the accident, it doesn’t mean that driver will automatically be held legally responsible for the damages in a claim.The police who respond to an accident may:

  • Interview drivers and witnesses
  • Collect physical evidence
  • Perform breathalyzer or other sobriety tests
  • Issue citations to one or more of the drivers involved
  • Call in medical assistance
  • Make an arrest

While a citation holds a person responsible for appearing in traffic court, it doesn’t necessarily prove who will be found liable in a car accident lawsuit. Traffic court is where the driver can dispute the citation and possibly have it dismissed. However, citations that are issued may be used as evidence that the driver was negligent in the opinion of officers first on the scene. In that way, a citation or arrest may play a huge part in the insurance company’s determination of fault.Keep in mind that the opinion of police officers is only one facet of evidence in a car accident case. Other pieces of evidence include the physical evidence on the vehicles or at the accident site. Lab reports that determine intoxication may also be relevant. Testimony from medics also carries the weight of a first responder’s opinion. Issued citations or arrests may be an indication of fault, or may be thrown out when brought to court.To protect your best interests, it’s advisable to contact a car accident lawyer to help you navigate these various points of fault.

An insurance adjuster gets a driver’s signature regarding the damage assessment after an accident.

How Do Insurance Companies Determine Fault in an Auto Accident?

Outside of any criminal matters, ultimately it is the insurance companies who will make a determination of fault and coverage payout.An insurance adjuster will be assigned to the claim, and will oversee an investigation into how the accident happened. There is usually more than one adjuster involved, as each insurance company has their own adjustment agent.The insurance adjusters may:

  • Research the accident
  • Talk to witnesses
  • Review any medical reports
  • Assess vehicle damage
  • Verify coverage
  • Come to a conclusion about who was at fault

At this point, sometimes an agreement is made between the insurance companies to assign partial fault to each driver. Otherwise, one is determined responsible and their insurer will make a settlement offer to the other affected parties.The problem is, insurance companies are not always right, and they are always looking out for the best interests of their company over the best interests of the insured. That is why consulting an auto accident attorney for any accident is important. Your attorney will perform an independent investigation of your accident and determine how best to proceed with your case.

What Can a Car Accident Settlement Mean for You?

Contacting a car accident attorney as soon as possible after a crash could save you a countless amount of worry and time. Not only will an experienced car accident lawyer help guide you through the process of dealing with insurance companies, they can also perform their own investigation. Depending on the evidence, this may help prove fault lies with the other driver, increase the amount of the settlement offered to an appropriate number, or prompt a lawsuit if you aren’t being treated fairly.A settlement or damages verdict obtained by your lawyer could help cover:

  • Medical bills including emergency care and continuing treatment costs
  • Property repair and replacement for your vehicle
  • Lost wages or employment benefits if the crash cost you jobs or vacation days
  • Pain and suffering damages for physical pain and psychological stress
  • Punitive or “punishment” damages that are charged to the negligent party and then awarded to you
  • Wrongful death expenses in cases where a crash causes or contributes to the death of a loved one

Determining fault after an auto accident can be difficult, especially when authoritative opinions disagree. By calling Osborne & Francis at (561) 293-2600, you empower us to negotiate solely in your best interests, and build a case if your needs after an accident exceed what the insurance companies are willing to part with.

At Osborne & Francis, our best interests are in representing your best interests, from the moment you call to the moment you’re compensated.

Client Reviews for Osborne & Francis

Hear from other car accident injury clients who were helped by Osborne & Francis:

I would highly recommend Osborne & Francis. My son and I were involved in a very serious car accident and I called for advice. I was very impressed when Joe Osborne actually took the time to come to our home on a Saturday morning to obtain the information needed to proceed with our case. Ever since that day I have been very pleased with how the lawyers and staff worked so many hours to get our case settled. We want to thank you all for your dedication, concern, and efficiency.-Linda M.
Best personal injury attorney around, I could not be happier! I was seriously injured in a car accident and Osborne & Francis helped me through the entire process. I was blown away by how knowledgeable the staff and attorneys are at this incredible law firm. I would not hesitate to recommend this law firm to friends and family!-Erica F.
Thank you Osborne & Francis for helping me after my car accident. I still cannot believe how quickly you all were able to win the case for me. They helped me along the way and supported me through the entire process. Thank you again.-Michael N.
A young male driver decides to call a lawyer when he sees his insurance company’s low offer after an accident.

Contact a Dedicated Car Accident Law Firm

How to determine who is at fault in an accident is not always an exact science. Shallow investigations and the ulterior motives of insurance companies can conflict with the truth.If you are involved in a car accident, you may be entitled to more compensation for your damages than first determined. Insurance companies will not always provide you with the best representation, which is why you need to find the right car accident lawyer to handle your case.Contact the experienced car accident attorneys at Osborne & Francis by filling out our online contact form or calling (561) 296-2600—our best interests are in representing your best interests from the moment you call to the moment you’re compensated.

Car Accident Coverage FAQs

Do the police decide who is at fault in a car accident?Police who first respond to a car accident must file a report, but they may or may not assign any fault. Possible police action could include:

  • Interviewing drivers and witnesses
  • Collecting physical evidence
  • Performing breathalyzer or other sobriety tests
  • Issuing citations to one or more of the drivers involved
  • Calling for medical assistance
  • Making an arrest

How do insurance companies decide financial responsibility after a car accident?One or more insurance adjusters (depending on how many insured drivers were involved in the crash) will collaborate on investigating the crash. The insurance adjusters may:

  • Research the accident
  • Talk to witnesses
  • Review any police/medical reports
  • Assess vehicle damage
  • Verify coverage
  • Come to a conclusion about who is financially responsible/at fault

What could a car accident settlement mean?If your injuries or costs require more than the insurance companies offer, a car accident attorney from Osborne & Francis could help you file a lawsuit. A settlement or damages verdict obtained by your lawyer could help cover:

  • Medical bills
  • Property repair
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • “Punishment” damages charged to the negligent party and then awarded to you
  • Wrongful death expenses in cases where a crash is fatal

How can a personal injury lawyer benefit me?Not necessarily; a citation, arrest, or assignment of fault at the accident site may be disputed, and insurance companies can be negotiated with. The most important factor is gathering evidence that can verify your actions before and during the crash, as well as your injury needs afterward. An experienced car accident lawyer from Osborne & Francis can document such evidence on your behalf, and advocate for your best interests throughout the entire process.

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