How to Determine Who is “At Fault” in a Car Accident

Determining Fault in a Car Accident

Many American’s daily routine consists of driving. While many people don’t often rely on public transportation, many often carry the responsibility to drive themselves from point A to B. Everyone drives. Since driving is part of a daily routine for many people, distinguishing who you can trust on the road is a much more complex matter. Not everyone on the road is safe, nor has your interests at heart. When trying to decipher who was “at fault” in the scene of a car accident, it’s important to make these decisions thoughtfully. Below, our successful personal injury team has composed a few suggestions when distinguishing fault.

Please keep in mind: Though our suggestions are helpful, you’ll need the assistance of a trusted personal injury professional when determining fault in a car accident.

How Do I Determine Who is At Fault?

Often one of the drivers will try to show that the other driver was at fault because he was negligent. To fully prove negligence, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty by failing to conform to the required standard of conduct, the defendant’s negligent conduct was the cause of the harm to the plaintiff, and/or the plaintiff was, in fact, harmed or damaged. The most common types of negligence include:

1. Distracted Driving

A driver who spends time doing anything that takes his or her eyes off the road is distracted. It might be applying makeup, eating, talking on the phone, texting, or handling kids in the backseat rather than keeping their hands on the wheel.

2. Speeding

Drivers not adhering to the posted speed limit are disobeying the law. Someone speeding significantly is putting lives in danger, but someone who is not going as fast as the speed limit posted is also putting lives at risk.

3. Failure to Pay Attention/Stop/Yield

Road signs are posted for a reason, whether they encourage drivers to yield, slow, stop, or even pay attention to road construction. Someone who fails to do any of the above is failing to pay attention to the road, which puts other drivers at risk for injury.

4. Failure to Signal

Drivers who do not use their turn signals are automatically considered at-fault due to their lack of proper etiquette.

5. Driving Under the Influence

Drivers who are drunk or using drugs are considered under the influence. It is illegal to drive under the influence and person doing so is considered at fault.

Endangering the Safety of Others

Anyone who is not adhering to the rules of the road is putting lives at risk. When someone follows a car too closely, does not stop for a red light or sign, does not slow down in a construction zone, or does not stop for a bus is more than likely the person at-fault for an accident. Police who have witnesses or other proof of this can often determine who is at-fault at the scene of the accident.

Comparative Negligence

California adopted the legal doctrine of comparative negligence. The theory of comparative negligence allows a plaintiff to sue for the percentage of damages attributable to the defendant. If the defendant is 70% at fault, the plaintiff can recover 70% of the total damages.

How Do Police Determine Fault?

Most accidents are usually easy to prove when it comes to fault and police who arrive on the scene of the accident can do this with relative ease. Witness statements are a crucial factor in determining who is at fault in any accident. If witnesses state one car was speeding uncontrollably and runs a light, the police may reach a quick decision.


The position and damage to the vehicles is another factor to determine who is at-fault in an accident. Police can usually tell who was at fault based on the position and damage of each vehicle after the accident.

Defending Your Rights

If you’re involved in a crash in California, it’s time to call an attorney at a personal injury law firm. Whether you suffered whiplash, minor injuries, or serious injuries that will change your life forever, it’s time to call an attorney and discuss your rights. You might be entitled to damages as a result of this accident. Don’t pay for the mistakes of others when they are the reason you are in this situation.


Your free, first-time, no-obligation consultation with a reputable Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney regarding your unique situation is available by calling:

888-529-3111 Monday-Friday, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.

— Jack Ter-Saakyan, Esq.
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