Proving fault in an accident can be challenging. What if someone claims you hit their car when you never actually hit their car?
Today, we’re explaining how to establish fault in all types of car accident situations.
Car Accidents Often Come Down to One Driver’s Word Against the Other’s
With some car accidents, fault is obvious: a driver ran a red light and hit a pedestrian. Somebody was texting and smashed into the rear bumper of the car in front at an intersection.
With other accidents, fault is less obvious.
Two cars might have tried to merge into the same lane at the same time, for example, and sideswiped each other.
Or, one car might have made a safe left-hand turn through an intersection, but the vehicle that hit the car was speeding through a red light.
In complicated accident situations, insurance companies will need to establish facts beyond each driver’s word. Insurance companies will check the police report, for example, or do a full investigation of witnesses and camera footage.
Check the Police Report
You are required to notify the police if anyone is injured in your accident. You are also required to call the police if there’s more than, say, $2,000 in damage in total (the specific limit varies by state).
When the police arrive at the scene, they should make a written accident report.
If you do not have a copy of your accident report, then you can contact the traffic division of your local police department to get a copy.
The police report should state the officer’s opinion on the accident. The officer will make that opinion after gathering all the facts, interviewing drivers and witnesses, and examining the scene. The police report might describe how one driver was negligent, for example, because that driver was speeding or not paying attention.
Not all accident reports are specific. If the cause of the accident is disputed and there are no witnesses to interview, for example, then the police officer might avoid making a judgment.
Even if the accident report is not specific, however, it should still mention any faults committed by either driver. These mentions of faults can play a crucial role in the claims process moving forward.
Check State Traffic Laws
State traffic laws can also help you establish fault. Each state has a “Vehicle Code”. This Vehicle Code outlines the rules of the road for your state. You can find the Vehicle Code at a local DMV, public library, or law library.
You can check the index of the Vehicle Code to find sections that could apply to your accident. You might check for “left turn” rules if a vehicle turned in front of you at an intersection, for example, or “rear end” rules if someone backed up into your bumper at an intersection.
If you find a rule that applies to your accident, copy that rule under its exact wording and statute number. You can refer to this ruling when you negotiate the claim with your insurance company.
Other Ways to Investigate Fault
If another driver claims you hit their car when you actually didn’t, then there are other ways to investigate the situation.
Look around the scene of the accident for any security cameras. Some stores might have security cameras in their parking lots that captured the accident, for example.
Or, ask around for witness statements or dashcam footage from around that time. Some people place a sign at an intersection asking for any witnesses of a previous accident, for example. All you need is one witness to corroborate your side of the story and it can invalidate the other driver’s claim.
In Certain Types of Accidents, One Driver is At-Fault 99% of the Time
Some accidents are considered “no doubt” liability accidents. In these accidents, one driver is at fault 99% of the time. Insurance companies rarely argue fault in these incidents.
If someone hits you from behind, then it’s almost always the fault of the rear driver – regardless of why you stopped. Even if you come to a full stop in the middle of the freeway, the rear driver should have left enough room to also come to a full stop. If the other driver did not leave enough room, then that driver is negligent.
Let’s say someone claims you hit them at an intersection by reversing back into them. In reality, the other driver was texting and crawling forward and hit your bumper. In this case, the insurance company should take your side and assign fault to the rear driver.
The car making the left turn is almost always liable for a collision in an intersection. The driver of the car making the left turn is responsible for making sure the turn is safe. In virtually every case, insurance companies assign fault to the turning driver.
There are some exceptions to this rule:
- The car going straight was speeding
- The car going straight ran a red light
- The left turn was safe when the turning car began to move, but something unexpected made the car slow down or stop
These situations can be difficult to prove. However, if you genuinely were not at fault for the accident, then you may want to hire a lawyer to argue your case.
What Happens If You Never Hit Someone At All?
In rare situations, a driver might make an insurance claim against you even though you never hit the other vehicle. It’s unusual but it can certainly happen.
In this situation, your insurance company should support your innocence. If you legitimately did not hit the other driver, then the insurance company should investigate the situation and verify that information.
Your insurance company can also provide legal representation to you. The lawyer’s job is to defend you against fraudulent claims like this.
Establishing fault in an accident can be a tricky situation. In many cases, fault comes down to one driver’s word versus the other driver’s word.
If someone claims you hit their car when you didn’t actually hit their car, then you need to provide all available evidence to support your claim. Your insurance company should have your back and may assign a lawyer in your defense. Alternatively, you may want to hire a car accident attorney on your own.