How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

best car accident lawyer in new york

Fault in a car accident is determined through various factors, including witness statements, CCTV footage, skid marks, vehicle damage, police reports, and violation of traffic laws. These pieces of evidence are analyzed to establish which party was negligent or violated traffic rules and should be held legally responsible.

However, determining liability in a car accident claim and seeking the compensation you deserve is a complex process. You will need to visit the accident scene, find evidence, and build a solid argument to defend your claim in front of insurance adjusters.

However, you don’t have to worry. At Uptown Injury Law, PLLC, our seasoned car accident lawyers are here to assist you in the hard times. We have been helping personal injury victims like you for over 15 years to resolve insurance claims and hold the negligent parties accountable for their suffering. Get in touch with us today at 917-540-8728 to schedule a free case review.

Ways to Determine Fault in a Car Accident

When you find yourself in a car accident, it’s crucial to establish who is at fault to ensure a fair resolution of the situation. To help you determine fault, here are several methods you can follow:

1. You May Be Able to Determine Fault at the Scene of Accident 

How you determine liability in a car accident can significantly impact the outcome of compensation you may receive. Most of the time, driver(s) involved in car crashes admit fault right away at the scene of the accident.

For instance, if your vehicle is severely damaged or you’ve suffered serious injuries, the at-fault driver may admit fault by apologizing or making statements that may indicate responsibility. These statements could be valuable evidence in establishing liability when you’re dealing with insurance adjusters or legal proceedings later on. 

Therefore, it is highly recommended to exchange information with the other driver(s)such as their phone number, insurance company details, and vehicle license plate numbers. Also, make sure to take photos of the accident scene for documentation purposes. 

2. Police Reports Could Help in Determining Liability 

Police reports play a crucial role in determining liability in car accidents. When officers arrive at an accident scene, they carefully analyze the situation and gather information on:

  • Vehicle positions
  • Road conditions
  • Witness statements
  • Potential violations of traffic laws or DUI

This data is documented in a formal police report, which serves as an objective record of the incident.

For instance, in a rear-end collision, the report may confirm the rear driver’s failure to maintain a safe following distance. These reports can serve as vital evidence and help you verify facts and seek fair compensation. Moreover, when you’re dealing with insurance companies, they may ask for a police report to determine liability accurately. 

As seasoned New York car accident lawyers, we can’t stress enough the importance of a police report. It can help you build a strong foundation for your car accident insurance claim. Therefore, make sure to contact law enforcement right after the accident. 

Or, in case you can’t reach out to the police at the scene of the accident, make sure to visit the nearest police station to file an accident report. 

3. Traffic Citations Can Help Decide Which Driver Was Negligent 

A traffic citation is a legal document issued to a driver for violating traffic laws. It serves as evidence of negligence or wrongdoing by the driver in question and could play a significant role in determining fault in accidents. 

To obtain a traffic citation law enforcement officers typically issue them when they observe a driver committing a traffic violation, such as speeding, running a red light, or reckless driving. 

The citation usually includes details of the violation, the location, date, and time, as well as instructions for addressing the citation, such as paying a fine or contesting it in court.

4. Evidence at the Scene of Accident

When seeking to establish fault in the aftermath of a car accident, it is essential to gather compelling evidence, particularly if you intend to file an insurance claim or engage in a legal proceeding. Both insurance companies and courts inspect the following pieces of evidence to determine liability:

Property Damage: The extent of damage sustained by the vehicles involved in the accident play a significant role in assessing fault. This is especially true for relatively straightforward cases, such as rear-end collisions, where the driver behind is often deemed responsible. Therefore, it is recommended to promptly capture photographs and videos of the damaged vehicles immediately after the incident. 

Bodily Injury: If you suffered injuries in a car crash, it is advised to consult with an experienced medical professional to assess the severity of your injuries. During your medical evaluation, your physical injuries will be thoroughly documented. These medical records can serve as critical evidence in future legal proceedings. Moreover, in situations where the cause of the accident remains uncertain, the testimony of a medical expert can help you present a solid argument and defend your claim.

Surveillance Footage: Surveillance cameras are becoming more common in public areas. To obtain CCTV footage, start by identifying any nearby surveillance cameras on buildings, traffic signals, or businesses. Additionally, it’s advisable to inform your insurance company about the accident and seek their assistance in obtaining any CCTV footage. 

Forensic Analysis: In accidents involving multiple vehicles or complex scenarios, forensic analysis can play a vital role. Forensic experts can meticulously evaluate various forms of evidence, including photographic documentation, police reports, eyewitness testimonies, and medical records. Through this comprehensive assessment, they can determine crucial details such as vehicle speeds, points of impact, and, if feasible, the root cause of the collision.

4. Investigation by Insurance Company

When figuring out who’s at fault in a car accident, it depends on whether your state follows a system of auto liability insurance or a no-fault insurance system. When you contact your insurance company to report an accident, they’ll assign an insurance adjuster to your case. This insurer will then investigate the accident to determine who’s responsible. Much like a police officer, the insurance provider will consider various factors:

  1. Accident location
  2. Witness statements
  3. Medical reports to assess injuries sustained in the accident
  4. Vehicle damage
  5. Insurance coverage like Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

In addition to these considerations, your car insurance company will also typically reach out to the at-fault driver’s insurer to seek reimbursement for any losses you’ve incurred as a result of the accident. This process is part of the claims resolution process, where the two insurance companies negotiate to determine the responsible party and the associated costs.

Auto Liability Insurance System

Auto liability insurance is a type of coverage that provides financial protection to you in case you are found legally responsible for causing an auto accident. According to New York laws, the minimum coverage for auto liability insurance is: 

  1. $25,000 for bodily injury
  2. $10,000 for both injury and harm to property of others

However, auto liability insurance only covers the costs of the other party involved in an accident, not your expenses. If you want coverage for your medical bills and vehicle damage, you will need personal injury protection (PIP) and collision insurance. 

5. State Laws and Regulations

How state laws and regulations define negligence will determine who is responsible for the car crash. In most cases, car insurance companies assign fault to multiple parties based on their investigation and details of the accident. 

For example, if you and the other driver shared liability and the insurance provider assigned you 60% of the fault and 40% to the other driver. In that case, you’ll cover 60% of your damages. Here are different rules that will help you determine fault, such as: 

No-Fault Insurance System

No-fault car accident insurance is mandatory in many states, including New York. This type of insurance means determining who’s at fault isn’t the primary factor in covering costs after a car accident. Instead, each party’s insurance company handles its expenses, regardless of who caused the accident. It is also known as limited tort coverage. In NYC, the minimum no-fault insurance coverage is around $50,000.

If you have this insurance, it can help recover your medical bills and lost wages around the limit of $5,000. However, it doesn’t cover pain and suffering or property damages that may result from the accident because these damages are fault-based.

Comparative Negligence Rule

In states such as New York that employ the Comparative Negligence Rule, the allocation of responsibility for damages resulting from a car accident is determined based on the degree of fault of each party involved. This means that if you find yourself in a collision, the extent to which the other driver is deemed at fault will directly impact how damages are covered.

For example, let’s say the other driver is determined to be 70% responsible for the accident while you bear the remaining 30% of the blame. In this case, the other party’s insurance company will be responsible for covering 70% of your incurred damages. Your own insurance policy, on the other hand, will step in to cover the remaining 30%.

This system aims to provide a fair way to address damages in accidents by holding each party accountable for their respective level of fault. It ensures that the financial burden is shared in accordance with the degree of responsibility.

Man photographing his damaged vehicle o gather evidence for car insurance.

6. Arbitration

Some drivers opt for arbitration to resolve fault. In this process, a neutral person or third party determines each person’s fault percentage. Arbitration addresses disputes related to liability and damages. It is an alternative to litigation, allowing parties involved in the accident to resolve disagreements outside of court.

Arbitrators listen to both sides, review evidence, and decide compensation and liability, often based on the evidence presented. While arbitration decisions can influence fault disputes, they do not establish legal fault like a court judgment might. The primary focus of arbitration is to facilitate a quicker and cost-effective resolution of disputes between parties involved in a car accident.

Were You Injured in a Car Accident in New York? Get Legal Help Today!

Car accidents can be traumatic, leaving you in a state of shock and confusion. When you suffer physical injuries, property damage, and the emotional toll in a car crash, determining fault is one of the most confusing aspects. 

If you find yourself in this overwhelming situation, Uptown Injury is here to guide you toward a solution that will bring you the justice you deserve.

How We Can Help You?

  1. Legal Guidance: Our team of experienced attorneys specializes in car accident cases. We will assess your situation, gather evidence, and determine the responsible party. You don’t have to face this challenge alone; we are your dedicated advocates. We will work tirelessly to protect your rights.
  2. Evidence Collection: We know the importance of gathering and preserving evidence to establish fault. From witness statements to accident reports, we leave no stone unturned in building a solid case on your behalf.
  3. Negotiation: Our New York’s best car crash lawyers will skillfully negotiate with insurance companies to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. We understand the tactics insurers employ to minimize payouts and will fight for your rights.
  4. Legal Representation: If you cannot get a fair settlement through negotiation, our legal team will take your case to court. We have a proven track record of success from past clients, and our lawyers will stand by your side throughout the legal process.

Contact us today or call our toll-free number at 917-540-8728 to schedule your free consultation.


How Do the No-Fault State and At-Fault State Differ?

In “no-fault” states, like New York, each driver’s insurance covers their injuries and damages, regardless of car accident fault. In “at-fault” states, the negligent driver is accountable for the other party’s damages, such as in California.

Does the Police Determine Liability in Auto Accidents?

No, the police do not determine liability in auto accidents. Their role is to investigate the incident, gather evidence, and file a report. Liability is typically determined by insurance companies, legal proceedings, or negotiations between the parties involved.

Can My Insurance Company Determine Liability in a Car Accident?

Your insurance company can assess liability in a car accident, but their determination is not legally binding. They will review evidence, statements, and applicable policies to decide. Ultimately, liability is determined through legal proceedings or negotiations between the involved parties.

What Is Liability Coverage and How Does it Help Car Accident Victims?

The insurance company establishes fault after a car accident by reviewing evidence such as police reports, witness statements, and the applicable traffic laws. They assess liability coverage, examine the circumstances of the accident, and consult with their insurance adjuster to determine liability.

What Should You Do if You Have Medical Bills After a Car Accident?

If you have medical bills resulting from a vehicle accident, contact your insurance company to determine if you have personal injury protection. Additionally, you may file a claim against the at-fault driver to cover your medical expenses.

Does Comprehensive Coverage Cover Accidents Involving One or More Drivers?

No, comprehensive coverage in car insurance does not cover accidents involving one or more drivers. It applies to non-collision events such as theft, vandalism, natural disasters, falling objects, or animal collisions.

Does Comprehensive Coverage Cover Accidents Involving One or More Drivers?

No, comprehensive coverage in car insurance does not cover accidents involving one or more drivers. Comprehensive coverage applies to non-collision events such as theft, vandalism, natural disasters, falling objects, or animal collisions.

How Can You Calculate Property Damage in a Vehicle Accident?

You can assess property damage by performing visual inspections, conducting expert evaluations, and checking repair estimates. Your car accident lawyer can help calculate the extent and cost of property damage.


Kyle Newman Founder and Senior Trial Lawyer at Uptown Injury Law New York's Best Personal Injury Medical Malpractice and Accident Law firm New York's Top Trial Lawyers
Kyle Newman Founder and Senior Trial Lawyer at Uptown Injury Law New York's Best Personal Injury Medical Malpractice and Accident Law firm New York's Top Trial Lawyers

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