Who Is at Fault in an Accident?

Category: Car Accidents

Article by Tuley Law staff

Who Is at Fault in an Accident?

An accident can be life-changing, leaving you with physical injuries, emotional trauma, and financial losses. However, before pursuing a personal injury case, the first determination is “who is at fault?” At first, it might seem like this is a simple question, but in many cases, it’s not.

For example,  a driver suddenly changes lanes on a busy highway without signaling and collides with your car. The impact causes you to hit a third car. It would seem the fault relies on the driver who initially changed lanes. However, suppose the investigation finds that you were using your phone when the accident happened. In that case, you could also be at fault.

An experienced lawyer at Tuley Law can help evaluate your case’s specific circumstances. We can investigate the accident, gather evidence, and represent you to the insurance company or in court to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injuries.

How is Fault Determined in a Personal Injury Case?

Fault in a personal injury case is typically determined using the legal principle of negligence. Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care, proximately resulting in harm to another person.

For the injured party (plaintiff) to prove negligence, they must show that the other party (defendant) had a duty to act with reasonable care, that the defendant breached this duty, and that the breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries. 

In addition to negligence, the fault may also be based on the legal concept of “strict liability.” Strict liability holds a person or entity liable for damages or injuries caused by their actions, regardless of intent or fault. For example, in product liability, a company is responsible if it makes or sells a defective product that injures the user, even if the company didn’t know about the defect or acted negligently. 

Additionally, states can measure negligence based on contributory negligence, comparative negligence, or some version of both.

Contributory Negligence

Under the contributory negligence rule, if a plaintiff is found to be contributorily negligent, they will be barred from recovering any damages. This means that even if the defendant is found to be primarily at fault, the plaintiff will not be able to recover any compensation if they are found to have contributed in any way to the accident.

For instance, if a driver is rear-ended, but it is later found that they failed to maintain their brake lights properly, they may be at fault. Under the rule of “contributory negligence,” the driver who was hit from behind would not be able to get any compensation, even though the other driver was primarily at fault for not stopping in time. The good news is only five states use this rule, and Indiana is not one of them.

Comparative Fault

Comparative fault, also known as comparative negligence, is a legal principle that allows for the allocation of fault among multiple parties involved in an accident or incident. In cases where multiple parties are found to be at fault for an accident, each party’s degree of fault is compared to the others.

For example, if a driver runs a red light and causes an accident, but the other driver was distracted at the time of the accident, each driver may be assigned a percentage of fault. The driver who ran the red light may be assigned 60% of the fault, while the other driver who was distracted may be assigned 40%. So if the verdict in the car accident is $100,000 in a lawsuit by the distracted driver against the driver who ran the red light, the distracted driver would receive $100,000 minus $40,000 (40%) for fault in the accident for a total of $60,000.

Modified Comparative Fault Rule

Indiana uses the modified comparative fault rule, which means the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault. However, if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, they cannot recover any damages.  Pure comparative fault, by contrast, permits a plaintiff to recover regardless of the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff, even if that percentage totals 95%.

For example, an accident may occur in which one car fails to yield and another driver is texting and driving. Both are found to be 50% at fault; both drivers will be able to recover 50% of their respective damages from the accident. But if one driver is allotted 51% of the fault, that driver would not be able to recover any of his or her damages from the accident under the modified comparative fault rule.

How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

In most cases, fault in a car accident is determined by law enforcement officials, such as police officers, who investigate the accident scene and create a report. Insurance companies involved in the claim may also make a liability determination.

Insurance adjusters and law enforcement will investigate the accident, gather evidence, and interview witnesses or parties involved to determine the cause and who is at fault. They may also use accident reconstruction experts to help determine how the accident occurred.

Additionally, they will consider factors such as traffic laws that were violated, road conditions, and the actions of the drivers.

If the insurance company finds that its policyholder is at fault, it will take responsibility for paying the other party’s damages up to the policyholder’s policy limits. If the other party is found to be at fault, their insurance company will be responsible for paying the damages.

However, in some cases, the insurance companies may not agree on the liability determination, or the parties involved may not be satisfied with the outcome. The matter may be taken to court in these cases, and a judge or jury will determine liability. In court, evidence and witness testimony will be presented, and the judge or jury will use this information to determine who is at fault.

What Does It Mean If You're At Fault?

If you’re found to be at fault in an accident, you are considered responsible for causing the accident and any resulting injuries or damages. This can have significant legal and financial consequences.

Legal Consequences: Depending on the laws in your state, being at fault in an accident means you may be required to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. In some cases, being at fault in an accident can lead to criminal charges, such as reckless driving or DUI, if you were inebriated at the time of the accident.

Insurance Consequences: If you’re found to be at fault in an accident, your insurance company may be responsible for paying the other party’s damages. This can lead to an increase in your insurance premiums or even cancellation of your policy.

What If No One is at Fault in An Accident?

What happens if the accident is due to unforeseen circumstances and no party can be held liable for the damages or injuries resulting from the accident? In some states, no-fault accidents can be covered by personal injury protection.

Indiana is not a no-fault state, which means that the traditional fault system is applied in determining liability in car accident cases. The injured party must prove that the other driver was at fault to recover damages.

Whether or not an individual can use their insurance if they can’t determine fault in an accident that isn’t in a no-fault state depends on their insurance coverage

If you are involved in an accident, and it is unclear who is at fault, it is essential to talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you understand your rights and options. They can also assist you in pursuing any potential claims under Indiana law.

An experienced personal injury lawyer at Tuley Law can help you in several ways:

  1. Investigation: We will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident scene, interview witnesses, and gather any available evidence, such as police reports, photographs, and video footage.
  2. Expert Witnesses: We may also retain experts such as accident reconstruction specialists or medical experts to provide testimony and support the liability claim.
  3. Negotiations: We can negotiate with the liable party’s insurance company to reach a fair settlement for the damages suffered.
  4. Litigation: If a settlement cannot be reached, we can represent you in court. 
  5. Experience with the laws and regulations: We know and understand the laws and regulations and how they apply to your specific case.

Knowledge of the court system: We also know the court system and how to navigate it, which is beneficial in resolving your case.

Contact Tuley Law For Help on Your Case

Tuley Law is experienced in all aspects of personal injury law and is dedicated to helping you recover the compensation you deserve. We will work to get the best possible outcome for your case and ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injuries. We are here to help. Contact us by filling out our online form or call us at (812) 625-2181.

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