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How Attorneys Determine Fault in Auto Accidents

Many people have heard the term ‘fault’ as it relates to automobile accidents; however, they may not be fully aware of what it actually means. To a large extent fault is exactly how it sounds. It refers to the driver who made the mistake or broke the law that resulted in the accident occurring. In that way it really is a matter of who to place the blame on. However, far from being a petty thing that makes drivers sound like little kids trying to get out of trouble by blaming the other person, fault is a very serious, important determiner in financial responsibility for the accident. The stakes are high and that leads many people to wonder just how attorney’s go about proving fault in the first place.


The police report is one of the best tools that attorneys use to determine fault. It is definitely a very influential document that carries a lot of weight in a trial or other legal proceedings. Basically what the police report comes down to is who the officer at the scene of the accident determined to have been at fault.

Often this position of fault is further strengthened by the fact that the at fault driver may have received a traffic citation for the incident. In addition to this officers routinely look for things such as evidence that one of the drivers may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs. All of this information would be found in the police report and that makes it a great tool for determining fault.


Specific Indicators are basically defined as circumstances which specifically tend to point toward one driver being at fault. Most commonly these indicators are rear end collisions or left turn related accidents.

Rear End Collisions – This type of collision is extremely telling because one of the most fundamental traffic rules is that drivers leave enough distance between themselves and the car in front of them so that they can stop safely for any reason. That means if someone rear-ended you then fault will almost certainly be assigned to them regardless of why you stopped. This type of accident is also extremely hard to dispute because the damage to the cars will make it obvious who struck whom.

Left Turn Accidents – This type of accident is also one that is typically very cut and dried because cars going straight almost always have the right of way. That means if the driver turning left ‘took a chance’ and got hit it was almost certainly his or her own fault. The only exceptions to this are when the car going straight was engaged in other illegal activity like running a red light or breaking the speed limit. Once again this type of accident is also difficult to dispute because the damage to the cars will make what happened very apparent.


In cases in which it may be difficult to determine fault based on the other factors involved having a third party, impartial witness can be very helpful. This witness may be another driver who was uninvolved in the actual accident but saw it, or it could be someone who was standing nearby the scene of the accident. A witness statement can make a big difference in a case.


Other documentation will include additional sources of evidence that help indicate fault.

Photographs – Photographs are one of the most valuable types of evidence because as long as they haven’t been doctored or falsified they present a very impartial, fact based representation of what happened. Thanks to the growing prevalence of cell phone with cameras it has also never been easier for drivers to document the scene of the accident and the damage to their vehicles. This is very helpful if other factors make it difficult to determine fault.

Medical Bills and Repair Bills – These types of bills may not explicitly state fault, but they can help paint a picture of what happened and the extent of the damages. They will also provide a solid baseline upon which claims and settlements can be reached.

When all is said and done it can be very difficult in some situations to determine fault. That is why it is so important to hire an attorney that is knowledgeable and experienced in cases that involve automobile accidents. This attorney should be someone that you can trust to go the extra mile for you and who has a proven record. When in doubt you should set up a consultation with a lawyer where you can further discuss the specifics of your case.