When Is It Your Fault or Not Your Fault in a Car Accident?

Friday, November 16, 2018

When Is It Your Fault or Not Your Fault in a Car Accident?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

After a car accident, you might walk away assuming that you did nothing wrong; therefore, the other guy is at fault.

Unfortunately, determining fault is not as simple as your word. Instead, an insurance company and law enforcement assess the accident site and the factors surrounding the case to determine who is at fault.

Even more surprising is the fact that you and the other driver might both be at fault. When that happens, contributory negligence laws will take over and your compensation value decreases based on how much fault is apportioned to you.

To determine fault appropriately, including whether you are at fault or the other party, you need to know the processes used and your state’s requirements.

Who Determines Fault?

When you hear the term “fault,” you are dealing with the insurance’s assignment of liability. That means the insurance claims adjuster will investigate the accident and see which party is liable. The liable party is the financially responsible party.

The Role of the Claims Adjuster for Determining Fault

A claims adjuster investigates after you report the accident to your insurance company. They determine who is at fault. And even if they work for your insurer, they can find you liable.

The adjuster reviews all of the evidence, including the police report. Sometimes the police report will indicate who caused the accident or any citations issued to point the adjuster in the right direction.

Instances Where Fault Is without a Doubt

While your claims adjuster gets the final say on whom they feel is at fault, there are instances of no-doubt liability. These types of accidents almost always have the same party assigned fault; therefore, they are relatively easy to wrap up for a claims adjuster.

These instances include:

Rear-End Collisions

In most cases, the party that rear-ends another car is at fault. Unless the leading car’s carelessness contributed to the accident, the vehicle that rear-ends was following too close and not exercising caution. In this case, insurers would find them liable.

Exceptions to Rear-End Collisions

As stated before, you could be liable even if you are rear-ended by another car. For example, your brake lights were out, which made it impossible for the following car to see you slow or come to a sudden stop.

Another example would be when you cut off a driver and then hit the brakes. In this case, you already cut the other vehicle off, giving them little time to put space between the bumpers.

Left Turn Collisions

When you are driving straight through an intersection and the vehicle coming in the opposite direction turns left in front of you, resulting in a collision, it is usually their fault.

Instances Where Left Turn Collision Rules Change

The rules can change for these types of accidents, and you could be at fault if you:

  • Were speeding through the intersection – making it difficult for the other driver to estimate your speed;
  • Ran a red light; or
  • The other driver had to suddenly slow or maneuver to avoid someone else who was recklessly driving – hitting you as a result.

The Factors of Contribution

Lastly, a claims adjuster will consider all the factors and how each party contributed to the accident. Questions they might ask themselves include:

  • What was the speed limit of both parties?
  • Who had the legal right-of-way at the time?
  • Were either party under the influence at the time?
  • Did either party receive a traffic citation?
  • What do the witness statements say about each party’s role in the accident?
  • Were there dangerous weather conditions that might have contributed?
  • Did anyone admit to fault at the accident scene?

Comparative Negligence – Are You Both Liable?

In Illinois, the modified comparative negligence laws apply when both parties are at fault.

Using the modified rule, the courts would consider the degree of fault by the plaintiff and compare that to the defendant. As long as you are under 51 percent at fault, you can still collect compensation. If you are more than 51 percent, the court bars you from filing a claim.

Furthermore, the percentage of fault assigned to you will deduct from your compensation.

For example, you are awarded $100,000 but you are also found 25 percent at fault. In this case, your $100,000 would be reduced by 25 percent – or $25,000. Therefore, you would only receive $75,000.

Leave the Fight over Fault to the Professionals

If you were involved in a severe car accident, the last thing you should worry about is who is at fault or fighting the insurance company when they try to put part of the blame on you.

Instead, speak with an accident attorney to explore your rights and get the compensation you deserve. Contact the team at Malman Law today by calling our office or requesting further information online.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2023

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