Discover How Law Enforcement Agencies, Insurance Companies, and the Courts Determine Fault after an Accident
In every Texas car accident, someone will remain liable, also known as being at fault. Determining who is at fault is a case of identifying the negligent driver responsible for the car accident. In most cases, it’s easy to determine which driver acted carelessly due to their behavior while driving. The negligent driver will be responsible for any injury, property damage, and even death that they have caused.
However, sometimes it can be difficult to tell who is at fault. Multiple parties might identify liability that conflicts with someone else’s fault claim. These parties include law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, and the courts.
How does one determine fault after an auto accident and where can you go for help after you’ve been injured in a wreck?
How Does a Police Officer Determine Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident?
Once a car accident is reported, police will come to the scene where they will fill out a police report of what happened.
The police officer will interview drivers, passengers, and any witnesses about the accident by asking a series of questions designed to piece together the sequence of events of the wreck. The goal is to piece together an account of what occurred.
In the report, the police officer will then identify who was at fault in the wreck based on their professional judgment.
Once the police officer decides that he or she has enough information, they will submit their report to their department.
It’s important to note that while police reports assign fault as determined by the police officer, it does not automatically mean that the person will be held legally responsible. The report can be used as a testimony or evidence, but it is not the verdict or a determinant of what happened. A police report does not approve nor neglect the damages that occurred in a car accident. It is a report of what happened as recorded by a third party.
How Do Insurance Companies Determine Who Is at Fault After an Auto Accident?
Following an accident, car accident victims will need to file a claim with their respective insurance company. If you were injured, you will file a personal injury claim. If a death was involved, the family of the deceased victim will file a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Once a claim is filed with an insurance company, the company will assign an adjuster to the claim.
The adjustor oversees the investigation into the accident and the settlement of the claim. Typically, more than one adjustor will be involved during this process since each person that is in the wreck will need to file a claim.
In an investigation, adjustors will:
- Research the accident
- Speak with witnesses
- Look at medical reports
- Examine vehicle damage
- And verify details about insurance policies
Ultimately, adjustors will determine which driver was at fault. This includes sometimes assigning a percentage of fault to each driver. The insurance companies will apportion the costs of the car accident based on this percentage and will indemnify the drivers involved. Texas courts rely on a legal rule known as modified comparative negligence. Under this rule, you can typically recoup losses if you’re found to be less than 51% percent at fault for the accident.
Insurance companies will determine fault based on the legal definition of negligence in the state where the accident happened. A driver is determined to be negligent if they fail to exercise the amount of caution a reasonable person would under the same circumstances. For instance, a driver who runs a red light is seen as negligent compared to the reasonable driver who waits at a red light and drives at a green light.
How Does the Court Determine Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident?
After a car accident, the victim may file a lawsuit to recover money for their injuries and damages. If you file a lawsuit following a car accident, the court will determine who was at fault by considering whether the defendant was negligent. As discussed above, a person is negligent when he or she fails to take reasonable caution under the circumstances.
In your case, a court will consider arguments from the parties’ lawyers, as well as various evidence presented by the lawyers. This includes testimonies from drivers, witnesses, police officers, and experts such as doctors and accident reconstructionists.
Either a judge or a jury, depending on who is responsible for deciding the case, will determine based on the evidence whether the other driver was negligent and must pay you money to compensate you for your injuries and other losses.
As stated earlier, it is important to understand that police reports and determinations of fault by insurance companies do not control the outcome of a court case. The rules of evidence may prevent certain evidence from being introduced during trial, including police reports, which are generally considered hearsay. Moreover, different rules govern the legal determination of responsibility for a car accident, including precedent from prior cases in the jurisdiction where your case is being heard.
Another thing to keep in mind is that evidence of a traffic violation, such as a traffic citation, may persuade the court that the party who committed the violation was acting negligently and is therefore at fault for the accident. This concept is known as negligence per se, and can be very helpful to your case if you were injured by a driver who violated traffic laws.
Evidence Involved in Determining Fault of a Car Accident
Whether you’re filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit resulting from a car accident, collecting evidence is crucial to determine the cause and its consequences. You need as much documentation as you can provide in support of your claim for injuries and other damages. Find out what kinds of evidence are crucial in a car accident case, and why they are important below.
Car damage, which may also be assessed by the police and insurer, is a major factor in determining fault. A vehicle’s rear may be damaged after the vehicle is rear-ended by the driver behind. In this case, it would be simpler to prove the driver behind is to blame. In any case, be sure to take pictures and videos of damaged vehicles following an accident. Evidence obtained in this manner is used later in making the determination of which driver was negligent.
Images of your injuries are not the only thing you can use to determine who and why the accident happened. It is important to speak with a doctor who has handled accident cases in the past, as they may be able to shed light on the facts surrounding your accident. Those who are injured in accidents should get medical treatment as soon as possible. Regardless of whether you feel injured, seeing a doctor is a good idea. Many injuries aren’t immediately apparent, such as head injuries, or may manifest slowly, such as soft tissue injuries.
As soon as you see a medical professional, a doctor can take note of your injuries and the details of how your injuries occurred. In the future, these may serve as evidence. Moreover, if it is unclear who hit the other, a doctor may be able to provide testimony about how your injuries likely occurred.
Public places are increasingly being monitored with surveillance cameras. Whether or not surveillance cameras are present at the site where an accident occurs is not within your control, but you should always check to see if the event was captured on the cameras. A video of the accident can be very helpful in determining fault.
The evidence at the scene of a complicated accident, such as one involving more than one vehicle, may need to be evaluated by a forensic analyst. A forensic expert can examine photographic evidence, police reports, eyewitness accounts, and medical records to decipher the likely path and speed of the automobiles, where the impact occurred, and, if possible, who caused the collision.
Do You Still Have Questions About Determining Fault After a Vehicle Accident?
A car accident is an overwhelming experience. Dealing with the police, insurance companies, and the possibility of a lawsuit can be difficult. If you have been injured in a car accident and you are concerned about whether or not you were at fault, our experienced car accident lawyers can help. In addition to providing valuable information and legal advice, our auto accident attorneys can help protect your rights and prevent your statements to the police and insurance companies from being used against you. Call 713-987-7111 to speak with a Sutliff & Stout accident lawyer today.