Who determines who is at fault after a car accident?
By GNGF on January 23rd, 2023 in
Your lawyer will undertake any investigation that is necessary to establish the other driver’s fault. That might mean talking to witnesses, speaking directly with the responding officer, reviewing or taking photos of the accident scene, inspecting the vehicles involved, and going to the scene of the accident to take measurements. If the other driver’s insurance company does not agree to accept liability for the car accident, a jury is ultimately responsible for determining who is at fault for causing the accident.
The police report may be an important resource in determining liability for your car accident. When police officers arrive at the scene they will question those involved in the accident, assess any evidence at the scene, and question any witnesses who saw the car accident. In some cases, it will be clear which driver was at fault, and this will be noted in the police report.
In other cases, the police may not be able to determine who was at fault, so there will be no citations given and no fault assigned. Once you file a claim against the other driver’s insurance, if liability is unclear, they may launch their own investigation to show that you were actually at fault for the accident. In return, your own insurer could do the same, in an attempt to show that you were not at fault and the other driver was.
When you hire a personal injury attorney, it will be their job to establish fault, which they will do in the same way the police officer did—by talking to witnesses, looking at any videos of the accident, and talking to those involved in the accident. Your attorney could even hire an accident reconstructionist to definitively show who caused the accident. If liability cannot be determined, a jury will make that determination at trial. Liability is an extremely important component in the determination of the damages you will receive.
What if I was partially at fault for the accident?
Proportionate responsibility laws determine the effect of your own potential partial fault in causing an accident. Your recovery will be reduced by your percentage of responsibility for causing an accident. In Texas, a person may not recover anything if he or she is more than 50% at fault for causing an accident. In New Mexico, a pure comparative fault state, your award will be lessened by the percentage of fault you are assigned for causing the accident.
There are different types of laws, set by individual states, that determine how partial fault affects a claim for damages.
- Under contributory negligence, if you contributed—even to the smallest degree of negligence—to the accident, you are not allowed to sue the other driver, even if they were 99 percent at fault for the accident.
- Pure comparative negligence allows you to collect damages no matter what percentage of the fault is assigned to you. Thus, even if you are deemed to be 90 percent responsible for the accident, you are still allowed to file a claim and recover ten percent of the total amount of your claim.
- Modified comparative negligence may operate under the 50 percent rule or the 51 percent rule. Under this type of negligence, if you are responsible for more than 50 or 51 percent of the accident, you may not recover any damages.
The state of Texas operates under modified comparative negligence—the 50 percent rule—while the state of New Mexico operates under pure comparative negligence.
How the Harmonson Law Firm with Offices in El Paso, TX and Las Cruces, NM Can Help After a Car Accident
Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be extremely stressful. You could be dealing with injuries that may be preventing you from returning to work. Your health and financial issues can seem overwhelming, and you may be uncertain of the steps you need to take to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your future. By hiring Harmonson Law Firm, you will take an important step toward safeguarding your future.
Our attorneys will always fight for a full settlement on your behalf, using every resource at our disposal. The goal at Harmonson Law Firm is to help you get back on your feet. We are committed to helping good people hurt in bad accidents. Contact Harmonson Law Firm today for individualized and compassionate legal representation. Please note that nothing herein is meant as legal advice specifically related to your case.