Car accidents occur each day on California roads. Over 200,000 victims sustain injuries, and thousands of them die in the accidents. The injuries suffered may be severe, leaving the victims to incur extensive medical bills, live with permanent disabilities, and lose income after losing their work. Determining fault in a car accident in orange county, CA, is challenging. However, California has several options for you to hold the at-fault party responsible for your injuries. Notably, a car accident may involve multiple motorists and at-fault parties.
When more than one vehicle is involved in the accident, determining fault becomes more complicated. How is fault determined in a multiple car accident? Do you require filing multiple claims when seeking compensation? Due to car accidents’ complex nature, consider hiring a competent car accident attorney if you or your loved one sustained injuries and damages in the incident. At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we have experienced attorneys in determining fault in a car accident. Hire us today, and we will swing into action.
The Legal Meaning of "Fault" in a Car Accident
In California, the at-fault party is simply the motorist responsible for causing the car accident. For instance, if another driver rear-ended you in a stoplight, determining the at-fault party is simple since the accident is clear. However, if a collision occurs and multiple drivers start blaming each other, determining the fault becomes challenging.
Therefore the insurance company must determine the cause of the accident to know the responsible party for the accident and the party to receive compensation. Every insurer will handle the claims differently, and at times the cases may proceed to the jury.
Proving Fault in a Car Accident
According to California laws, to find the other driver responsible for the accident, the court has to prove and determine he/she was at fault. Various car accident fault rules are adhered to when determining the responsible party. However, determining fault in the state may be complicated. Therefore, you should seek assistance from an experienced personal injury attorney. The attorney will guide you through the whole process and ensure you receive fair compensation.
To prove fault in a car accident, you should have convincing evidence. This is mainly when the case isn't settled through negotiation instead through the court. Examples of the proofs you may use include:
Police Report —the report may become a starting point for proving negligence. You may highlight any inconsistency which the law enforcement officers might have missed. Ask the police officers when and how you may obtain a copy of their report. Notably, the information may contain officers' evaluations about the at fault driver.
Traffic Laws — traffic laws may help you when you want to prove the other driver violated the laws. Note that traffic laws are part of California statutes. Therefore, the rules are summarised in a booklet available in the driver's license agency. Look at the table of content and for the applicable listing like signs, signals, right of way, and distracted driving. Then if you find the other motorist violated a particular rule, obtain the statute number.
Nature of the collision— The law requires you to maintain a safe distance from the other driver. Therefore, the other driver is at fault if they struck another car from behind.
The Involved Drivers Determine the At-Fault Party
When at the accident scene, the involved drivers may determine the cause of the accident. After the accident, the drivers may engage in an exchange of words. However, this may be harmful. Sometimes the driver may admit the fault of the car accident. The driver may argue he/she didn't see the road sign. However, this argument may come to hunt them once the case proceeds to the court.
Therefore what should you do after a car accident? Take pictures of the vehicle, the names and the phone number of those involved, the witnesses. Ask the other driver to show you their insurance ID cards and licenses. Record them and the model of the car involved in the collision. Additionally, keep documents of the scene's location, day and time, and the weather condition of the day. If necessary, remain at the scene until police arrive.
How the Police Help in Determining Fault In a Car Accident
After a car accident, it's recommended you remain at the scene until police officers arrive. This is critical, especially when you feel the other driver is liable for the accident. After arriving at the accident scene, the police officers will first figure out whether anyone is hurt and, if so, call an ambulance for help. Additionally, they will investigate the car accident, interview the witnesses and the drivers involved in the accident to compile accurate information about what happened.
The law enforcement officers will maintain a record of the accident. Notably, the document may contain their opinion about the party at fault of the accident. The report does not necessarily determine the at-fault party. Therefore even when the police report states the party responsible for the accident, it doesn't mean they will be held accountable for the accident. However, the report may be persuasive for the court and the insurance company when deciding the fault.
The law officers are correct about 80% most times. Alternatively, approximately twenty percent of their report is wrong. For instance, the police report may be false when the injured person cannot speak by themselves or have been taken away by an ambulance or even when the injured victim dies.
If the law officers believe one of the drivers violates traffic laws, they may issue a citation or arrest the driver. For instance, if the driver seems intoxicated, the law officers may perform a breath test, roadside sobriety test, or blood test to come up with concrete evidence the motorist drove under the influence.
However, seek legal assistance from a top-flight law firm. They will have their investigators, reconstruction professionals, and experts to determine what happened by examining the damaged car. Additionally, the law firm will have experts to walk out independently and talk with ambulance personnel, fire personnel, talk to the witnesses excluded in the police report, speak with other officers at the scene.
How Insurance Companies Determine Fault in a Car Accident
According to California laws, if you believe the other driver caused the car accident, you are entitled to seek a settlement from their insurance agencies. The insurance companies won't readily accept the settlement. The company will assign the claim to an adjuster. The adjuster will carry out their investigations to determine whether their policy order was liable for the accident. Their investigations may involve examining the vehicles involved in the crash, physically examining the accident scene, and carrying interviews to the involved parties. To determine the fault, the insurance company may investigate the following factors:
Where each vehicle sustained damages.
Traffic violations and the police report citation.
Signs of negligence from the involved driver.
Speak with the witnesses.
Examine the medical records.
The status of the road when the accident occurred.
The extent of each vehicle damage.
After examining the above factors, the adjuster determines the fault part, sometimes assigning a percentage of fault to each driver. When determining the fault, the insurance company considers the driver's negligence. Negligence happens when one party fails to take caution a reasonable person would do under a similar situation.
Mostly, if the fault of the accident is unclear, the insurance company will skip the liability by claiming their policyholder wasn't at the fault of the accident. Additionally, the insurance company may argue you were partially involved in the collision. By doing so, they will decrease your compensation amount. Therefore if the insurance company fails to determine your adequate settlement, you may file a lawsuit against the other driver in a law court.
How The Court Determine Fault in a Car Accident
In California, most cases are finalized outside the court. However, if the case proceeds to the court, a jury or judge determines the fault party. The court determines whether the defendant was negligent. When deciding the at-fault party, the judge will consider arguments and examine evidence from the defendant's lawyer.
The jury or the judge will either determine the fault relying on the evidence the driver was negligent. After determining the driver was negligent, the court will order him/her to compensate the victim for their injuries and damages resulting from the car accident.
The insurance company and the police report do not control the ruling of the court. Various rules will determine the fault in a car accident. If the driver violates traffic rules, the court may persuade the defendant for acting negligently, thus at fault for the accident.
Determining the at-fault party may be challenging. Therefore you will require help from a car accident attorney. The attorney will guide you and help you gather sufficient evidence against the other driver.
Car Accident Fault in a Lawsuit
In California, every car accident rotates around the concept of negligence. A driver may be found responsible for the accident if the court discovers the accident happened due to negligence. The parties considered negligent for a car accident may include bicyclists, car manufacturers, other drivers, government entities, and pedestrians.
You may be termed negligent if you fail to act with reasonable care legally expected. For example, a driver is expected to operate their vehicle reasonably to avoid injuring others. Therefore, if a driver works unsafely, causing injuries to others may be considered negligent, thus at-fault of the car accident. In California, various forms of negligence may result in a car accident, for instance:
Distracted driving - Distracted driving involves any activity that diverts the driver's attention, including texting or talking over the phone, drinking and eating, navigation or entertainment system- anything that takes drivers' attention away from their safe task driving. Recently the most common form of distracted driving in California is texting or calling while driving. Therefore if a car accident occurs due to the driver's distracted driving, then he/she becomes the fault of the accident.
Dangerous roads - In California, government entities are responsible for keeping roads safe by repairing, maintaining, and inspecting. Therefore if potholes and other road hazards cause car accidents, the government will be held liable for negligence. Thus if a car accident occurs due to dangerous roads, then the government is at fault. The government will be held responsible for compensation for the suffered injuries and damages.
Violation of traffic laws - California has hundreds of traffic laws a driver may violate, causing a car accident. Notably, common traffic violations may include failure to yield, overspeeding, running a red light, or failure to signal. Therefore if a driver violates traffic laws and causes a car accident, then he/she is at fault for the accident due to their negligence.
Defective auto parts - If a car manufacturer sells defective vehicle components or vehicles, a malfunction may lead to a car accident. Therefore the manufacturer will be found at fault for the accident. Defective parts may include breaks, airbags, and tires. Therefore the manufacturers will be held responsible for compensating for the sustained damages and injuries.
Aggressive driving - In California, traffic may be frustrating. When drivers' impatience turns to aggression, it may cause dangerous actions like excessive speeding, threatening other drivers, tailgating, or cutting off other vehicles. Therefore, if a car accident occurs due to the driver's aggression, they become the accident's fault.
DUI - Driving under the influence involves driving or operating a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Therefore if a car accident causes injuries and damages due to driver's intoxication, then the driver is at fault for the accident. The law requires him/her to compensate for the suffering damages and injuries.
Pure Comparative Negligence System In California
The state uses pure comparative negligence when determining liability for several people involved in a claim. Under the system, any person found at fault for the accident is responsible for their portion of responsibility. Additionally, the system ensures the victims of the accident cover portion of their damages. Alternatively, it prevents the injured victim from obtaining compensation resulting from their contribution to the accident.
For example, two drivers are engaged in a car accident. John ran into a telephone pole, and the pole fell on the road. Alternatively, James was overspeeding, and as he tried to avoid the telephone pole across the road, he hit a pedestrian. John may be found 60% at fault, while James may be found 40% at the accident's fault. If the injured pedestrian damages cost $200,000, John would pay $120,000( sixty percent). Alternatively, James would contribute $80,000(forty percent).
Multiple parties may be at fault for a car accident. Under the state's laws, more than one person may be held liable for damages and injuries resulting from a car accident. Each party is responsible for its degree of fault.
Even when the victim contributes to the accident, it doesn't mean he/she won't receive compensation from the other driver at the accident's fault. The "pure" aspect means the victim may recover injuries and damages regardless of their degree of fault. For instance, if the driver was 80% at fault, the laws allow him/her to file a claim for the remaining 20%.
What to If the Other Driver Doesn't Have Insurance
In California, the traffic laws require the driver to carry their minimum level of insurance coverage which contains liability minimum:
Fifteen thousand dollars for the death/injury of one person.
Five thousand dollars for property damage.
Thirty thousand dollars for death/injury for several people.
However, several drivers drive without insurance, thus violating traffic laws. Therefore if you are involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver, the law requires you to file a lawsuit against the driver to recover your damages. Unfortunately, the driver may not have the assets or money to compensate for your injuries. Underinsured and uninsured motorists coverage is optional insurance which is responsible for paying the damages when the driver is responsible for the accident and either:
Their policy does not have sufficient coverage for paying the injured victim.
The driver doesn't have automobile insurance.
Find A Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Car accidents are incredibly overwhelming. If you were struck by a car in Orange County, CA, and sustained injuries and damages, you need to think about how to determine fault and chase compensation. However, determining the fault is challenging depending on the accident’s nature. Additionally, dealing with the police, insurance company, and a lawsuit simultaneously is hard.
After suffering injuries in a car accident, you might experience a lot of pain and need to focus on recovering. You require a car accident attorney to provide legal advice and valuable information, thus protect your rights and avoid the insurance company and the police report from using your statements against you.
At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, our competent auto accident attorneys will help determine the at-fault party and build a strong case against them. We are happy to offer a free consultation and case evaluation. Call us today at 714-876-1959, and we will ensure you receive the legal assistance you deserve.