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How Fault Is Determined in a Car Accident


Fault is central to all auto accident cases in California. While some accidents are obviously the fault of one particular driver, many others actually involve shared fault to some degree even when there are only two vehicles in a collision. The most important aspect of fault is that it determines the amount of insurance benefits available to those involved based on their personal contribution to causing the accident, with total benefits available through litigation being discounted by the assigned comparative negligence of each driver.

The problem is that this is by no means a scientific process, and it is always the most intense component of an accident settlement negotiation when insurance companies think they can reduce the settlement amount by contesting in court that the injured claimant is largely responsible for their own injuries. This is also when it is vital to have an experienced California car accident attorney representing your case who understands how to craft a case for maximum settlement value.

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Official Accident Investigation

All auto collisions will typically be investigated by the local law enforcement officials unless damages are minor and both parties can drive away from the scene. Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime, full stop.

Upon arrival, police officers will conduct an investigation, including interviewing all involved parties if they are not seriously injured. Serious accidents can be difficult to unravel when all accounts cannot be ascertained, and a police report may not be readily available immediately following a crash. The official accident investigation will commonly contain specific information regarding:

  • Witness Statements
  • Damage Assessment
  • Traffic Citations
  • Names of All Involved Individuals
  • Pictures

The official accident report does not indicate who was actually at fault unless a driver makes an admission. Admitting fault for an accident to a police officer or other party is never a good decision because evidence may always tell a different story later and you always should let the facts speak for themselves rather than saying something you might regret later.

Independent Accident Investigations

When an auto accident results in serious damages, insurance companies often employ their own crack squad of investigators and adjusters to mitigate payouts for the sake of their bottom line. Defendants such as trucking companies can also conduct independent investigations apart from those conducted by officers and accident reconstruction specialists, often attempting to influence the state evaluation.

Both trucking companies and their insurers are always aggressive in defending claims even when commercial vehicles cause accidents with obvious issues of company driver negligence. In addition, determination of fault in multi-car collisions can be even more complicated because each victim will have a legal team and an insurer also, with each of them potentially having opposing, contradictory accounts.

Jury Assignment of Fault

Accident cases that go to litigation are almost always centered around fault or gross negligence. The lower the comparative negligence rating for a defendant, the lower the final settlement awards will be if the defendant insurance company is not found to be acting in bad faith. The jury can use all evidence in the case from all parties in addition to the official accident report from the police officer investigation when making a final determination of the comparative negligence percentage for each driver. This is then used to calculate a final award, including punitive damages in gross negligence cases.

Contact California Car Accident Attorney Lalezary Law Firm

Never let an insurance provider or a contending negligent party deny you the full and fair monetary compensation you deserve. Always retain an experienced and aggressive car accident law firm like the legal professionals at Lalezary Law Firm who have a long track record of success. The attorney you call can make a major difference. We are THE difference maker in California when it comes to negotiating and litigation car accident claims.

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