Understanding Car Accident Claims

Car Accidents And Fault: A Brief Guide

by Lois Gibson

Car accidents often lead to legal complications as the parties involved try to receive fair compensation or avoid paying excessive compensation to the rival party. In most serious accidents, the legal concept of "fault" is extremely important. This article offers a brief guide to this important topic.


The term "fault" in regards to auto accidents refers to a driver whose actions, or lack of action, led to the collision. In some cases, the fault may be shared by both drivers in a crash.


Most states in the country are "at-fault" states, which means that they determine which driver or drivers bear responsibility for what happened. In the majority of these at-fault states, a concept called "comparative negligence" governs the damage award. Each driver is held responsible for any actions that caused the collision. For example, if you incur $100,000 in damages, but bear 30 percent of the blame for the accident, your compensation is reduced by the same 30 percent. 

Some states follow a different standard called contributory negligence. Under this concept, drivers might not be able to obtain any damages if they bear any blame for the accident whatsoever.


Several states, however, do not follow the at-fault standard and are known as "no-fault "states. These states do not allow those drivers injured in accidents to sue for compensation for their medical bills. Instead, the injured person has his medical expenses covered by mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PIP also covers the loss of income an injured person sustains as a result of being unable to work. 


Since fault is such a critical element of so many accidents, determining fault is obviously an important part of many car accident cases. A key factor is whether any driver involved in the collision violated traffic laws. For example, was one of the drivers speeding, changing lanes in a reckless manner, or running a  stop sign? If so, that person is almost certainly going to take most of the blame. You will need to gather as much relevant evidence as you can, such as any video of the accident, the police report, and the testimony of any witnesses to bolster your case regarding who was at fault. 

Clearly, the legal concept of fault is complex and has many details that are not obvious to the average person. For this reason, anyone involved in a serious collision should obtain the services of a car accident lawyer.