The determination of fault in an automobile accident largely rests on identifying the party responsible for “negligence” or carelessness. This factor is easy to assess in many cases where the question of which party was being careless is immediately clear. The negligent party ends up being the one responsible for injuries, property damage, and the other negative effects of the accident.
Police Procedure For Determining Fault
Once the police become aware of a car accident, their main responsibility is preparing a police report which accurately describes the incident. Police officers will gather information by interviewing all of the drivers involved as well as any witnesses. A series of formalized questions is used to ensure that the information gathered is complete and correct.
After the information is gathered and compiled in a report, the officer responsible for it will submit it to his or her department. In some cases, this document will include a statement assigning fault for the accident based on both the statements collected and the professional judgment of the reporting officer.
A determination of fault is not a necessity for a police report, and many auto accident reports do not include them. Additionally, you should know that a determination of fault in a police report is not binding, and a lawsuit may end up assigning legal responsibility (i.e liability) to a different party.
In the course of investigating an auto accident, a police officer might issue traffic citations. Citations are basically law enforcement notices which assert that a driver has violated a traffic law. Examples would include making an unlawful turn or driving faster than the speed limit. Many citations include penalties for the driver such as fines or points deductions. Note that a police office may issue multiple traffic citations for a single car accident.
Drivers who receive traffic citations may be obliged to appear in traffic court or take other action. Traffic citations are not binding when used as evidence in an auto accident lawsuit, but they can serve as strong evidence to establish driver negligence.
Fault Determination For Insurance Companies
Following a car accident, one or more insurance companies typically receive claims. Each claim is assigned to an adjuster who takes responsibility for investigating the accident and settling the claim. It is entirely normal for multiple adjusters to be active in one accident, as each insurance company involved will typically assign its own adjuster.
Adjusters learn more about an accident by gathering information from multiple sources. They will speak with witnesses, examine vehicles, review medical records, and examine the insurance policies of the drivers involved in the accident. Adjusters will sometimes divide up fault in an accident, assigning a separate percentage to individual drivers. The total cost of the accident and the indemnities assigned to different drivers will be portioned out according to this percentage (and to the relevant terms in the drivers’ insurance policies).
The highest rule applied by insurance companies and their adjusters is usually the state’s definition of negligence. Negligence generally consists of failing to use the same level of caution as a reasonable driver in the same circumstances. The simplest example would be a driver who drove past a red light and hit a car being driven through an intersection on a green light. Because the law supports the behavior of the driver with the green light and proceeding past a red light is not a reasonable action, the driver of that car would be considered negligent and at fault for the accident.
In Texas courts, a rule called modified comparative negligence may affect lawsuits related to car accidents. A driver’s ability to file a claim with other party’s insurance companies is limited by the determination of fault. Only drivers who are found to be less than 51 percent at fault may recoup their losses in this way.
How Fault Is Determined In Court
If you get into an auto accident and subsequently file a lawsuit in order to recoup the costs of injuries and/or damage, the question of fault will be determined by the court. The key question here will be whether the defendant in the suit was behaving in a negligent manner as discussed above. A failure to act with reasonable caution in the circumstances is the key definition of negligence in these cases.
Courts will weigh their decisions based on both the arguments presented by each party’s lawyers and any evidence they present. Potential forms of evidence include drivers’ testimony, witnesses’ testimony, police officers’ testimony, and testimony from relevant experts like doctors or accident reconstruction professionals.
Auto accident cases will be decided by either a judge or a jury. Regardless of who is responsible, the determination of fault and negligence will be made based on the evidence presented. A defendant found to be negligent will be required to pay you in order to compensate for your injuries and losses if your suit is successful.
You must always bear in mind that neither police reports nor insurance company determinations dictate the way an accident lawsuit plays out. Certain pieces of evidence may end up being excluded from consideration. Police reports, for example, are often considered hearsay. Determination of responsibility and fault can be affected by many factors, including legal precedents in the jurisdiction in which your case is heard.
Traffic citations and other pieces of evidence can prove to be very persuasive when a court is weighing fault in an auto accident case. Your case may end up getting a big boost if the driver responsible for your injuries received a citation.
Getting Help In An Auto Accident
Car accidents are inevitably traumatic. You have a huge roster of concerns to address, including your medical issues, potential damage to your vehicle, and dealing with the police and insurance companies. If you feel that a lawsuit may be required, it’s a good idea to seek out the best car accident lawyer Corpus Christi has to offer you. Besides explaining your options and advising you on the best steps to take, an attorney specializing in auto accidents will also be a strong advocate for your interests and ensure that you are treated fairly.