How to Tell Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident

How to Tell Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident

How to Tell Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident

Evidence ultimately determines who is at fault in a car accident. Traffic camera footage, photos of the accident scene, eyewitness testimony, and other forms of evidence can paint a clear picture of what happened. This information can also determine who caused the collision and who bears liability.

Proving negligence can be difficult to do on your own—especially if you’re dealing with serious injuries. If you think you might want to pursue compensation via a claim or lawsuit, consider partnering with a car accident lawyer. They can determine who is at fault in your collision and fight for the compensation you need and deserve.

Evidence Reveals Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident

How to Tell Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident

The supporting evidence in your case may include:

  • The accident report. South Carolina Law requires you to file a traffic collision report after an accident with injuries. This report will contain important details about the crash, including who was involved, where it happened, and if the police arrested anyone.
  • Black box data. Many modern cars come with data recorders that measure the time, speed, and force of impact in collisions. Information from a car’s black box doesn’t tell the entire story, but it can help an accident reconstruction specialist recreate what happened.
  • Expert testimony. Testimony from field experts, such as mechanics and accident reconstruction specialists, can give important insight into what factors caused an accident. For instance, a mechanic can explain whether a car’s malfunction caused a collision. An accident reconstruction specialist can use a combination of math, science, and physics to determine what happened.
  • Blood alcohol content (BAC) readings. A drunk driver may have caused your collision in South Carolina. If so, law enforcement may have asked them to take a breathalyzer test to measure their intoxication. These results can serve as valuable evidence when asserting another party’s negligence.
  • Traffic camera footage. Many intersections in South Carolina have traffic cameras. However, these devices do more than catch motorists running red lights—they can also show what happened before, during, and after an accident.
  • Physical damage to the car. To you, a dent in your car is just a blemish. To the trained eye, however, a car’s damage can illustrate how an accident happened and who is responsible.

There are other types of evidence that could also prove fault for a car accident. When you partner with a car accident lawyer, they can conduct an investigation on your behalf. You don’t have to worry about anything other than recovering.

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Some Types of Car Accidents Lend Insight Into Fault

Different car accidents have different causes. For instance, fault for rear-end collisions generally rests with the rear driver who failed to stop in time. Fault for a head-on collision usually lies with the driver in the wrong lane.

A legal professional can assess your collision and determine who bears liability for your losses. They may consult with accident reconstruction specialists and other professionals to learn more.

Proving Fault Generally Requires Proving Negligence

Many car accidents result from human error. When motorists don’t take necessary precautions behind the wheel, they can cause serious accidents. Speeding, distracted driving, and intoxication contribute to thousands of collisions each year. In situations like these, you must show how the other party acted negligently to recoup damages.

This involves proving four elements:

  • Duty of care. First, you must show that the other party had an obligation to drive safely. This is relatively easy to establish, as everyone with a driver’s license must follow traffic laws and drive as safely as possible.
  • Breach of duty. You must show that despite their obligation, the other party acted with wanton disregard for others’ safety. The moment a driver engages in an unsafe practice behind the wheel, such as texting while driving, they put others at risk of harm.
  • Causation. You now have to make a connection between the other party’s breach of duty and the cause of your accident. Your attorney can do this by presenting your case’s evidence.
  • Damages. Finally, you must show that because you suffered harm in a collision, you have various damages, such as medical bills, lost income, and more.

If your attorney can show all these elements to the liable party and their insurer, you could get compensation for your accident-related losses. In some cases, proving negligence is easy. In others, it takes weeks of investigation, consulting, and other measures.

Not All Cases Require Proving Negligence

Earlier, we said, “Proving fault generally requires proving negligence.” The key word here is generally. Not all cases require us to prove negligence. For instance, suppose you were in a collision caused by a steering wheel that malfunctioned. To file a successful product liability claim, you wouldn’t prove negligence. Instead, you would show that because the car’s steering wheel didn’t work, you suffered harm in a collision.

Proving that a corporation caused your collision can be a complicated process. These large multimillion-dollar organizations have armies of lawyers ready to contest any claims. It may benefit you to partner with a car accident attorney who can manage your case and handle all negotiations for you.

Who Could Be at Fault for a Car Accident?

Fault for a car accident could lie with various parties, such as:

  • Another motorist
  • Someone traveling on foot
  • A car manufacturer
  • A mechanic
  • A government agency

For example, a motorist could be at fault for an accident if their actions caused a collision, or a government agency could be at fault if poor roadway conditions caused or contributed to the crash.

Multiple Parties Could Bear Fault for Your Collision

Not all car accidents involve two motorists. Sometimes, they involve multiple parties whose actions contributed to the collision.

Consider this scenario:

  • You were driving to work.
  • An intoxicated motorist struck you from behind, causing a rear-end collision.
  • An investigation says that their car’s brakes malfunctioned.
  • You have serious injuries and other related damages.

At first glance, it may seem as though only the intoxicated motorist bears fault for what happened. Yet, this scenario involves multiple at-fault parties. For instance, you could hold the bar that overserved the motorist liable for your losses. You could also file a product liability claim with the maker of the defective brakes.

Pursuing damages from multiple parties can get confusing—especially if they try to pin the blame on one another. This is another reason to consider partnering with an auto accident lawyer. Your attorney can manage all communications with these entities, determine liability, and pursue compensation from the appropriate parties.

Certain Actions Can Make Another Party at Fault for Your Accident

All road users, including motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, must take care to avoid harming others. When they don’t and their actions cause a collision, they may bear fault for what happened.

These acts of negligence often lead to car accidents:

  • Tailgating
  • Speeding
  • Failing to yield
  • Failing to use a crosswalk
  • Failing to obey traffic signals
  • Distracted driving
  • Fatigued driving
  • Intoxication
  • Road rage
  • Aggressive driving

Many of the actions listed above are illegal, so law enforcement may have arrested the negligent driver and charged them with a crime. However, a conviction would not yield recovery for your losses. While a conviction could support your injury claim, it would not pay for your medical bills, pain and suffering, or other damages.

You Have a Limited Time to Prove Fault Following a Collision

If you want to pursue damages via the court system, South Carolina law imposes a filing deadline. You generally have three years from the date of the accident to file your case. Yet, before you file your case, you must know who is at fault for the car accident. Without knowing who’s at fault, you cannot name the defendant in your lawsuit.

This makes considering legal help crucial if you suffered harm in a collision. Once the three-year deadline expires, you cannot file your case and seek damages through litigation—no matter how strong your case may be. Missing this time window could leave you without financial recovery options, making you solely responsible for your injury-related losses.

The At-Fault Party Could Owe You Compensation for Numerous Damages

Again, proving fault is at the center of your personal injury case. Proving fault leads to proving the liability of the at-fault party who caused your collision. The liable party should owe you compensation for your losses.

Whether through a claim or lawsuit, compensable damages in your case may include:

  • Medical bills, including ongoing or future care costs
  • Lost income, tips, bonuses, and employee benefits
  • Loss of future earning capacity if you cannot return to work
  • The cost of replacing or repairing your vehicle
  • Disability
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Impaired quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Funeral expenses (if you lost a loved one)

These are just some of the damages you can seek via legal action. How much you can seek is a different story. That will depend on many aspects of your situation, including your estimated recovery period and your role in the collision.

Partnering With a Car Accident Lawyer Can Benefit Your Injury Case

A successful injury claim comes with many interlocking parts. Proving fault is only one component of your case. You’ll also need supporting evidence and proof of your damages to receive compensation. A car accident lawyer in your area can manage these and many other tasks on your behalf.

For example, they can:

Review the Liable Insurance Policy

Many car accident claims resolve via insurance settlements. The South Carolina Department of Insurance notes that all motorists must carry liability insurance.

At a minimum, every driver must have:

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury
  • $50,000 for all people injured in one collision
  • $25,000 in property damage coverage

If your losses fall within these parameters, you could resolve your case by negotiating with the insurer. If not, a lawyer can identify the at-fault party’s liability coverage limits, present supporting evidence, and advocate on your behalf.

Calculate Your Losses

If another party’s negligence caused your car accident, you deserve compensation for each of your injury-related losses. However, you may not yet know how much those losses are worth. Your lawyer can add up billing statements, receipts, invoices, and other documentation to determine your economic losses (such as medical bills, car repairs, and lost income).

When it comes to your non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering), your lawyer can assign financial value to those as well. Their calculations will likely account for your physical well-being, quality of life, and other considerations.

Manage Your Insurance Claim

Once your lawyer assesses your losses, they can send a demand letter to the liable insurance company. This letter will outline the cost of your damages, the cause of your accident, and the severity of your condition. The insurer’s response determines what your lawyer does next.

For example, the insurer may:

  • Accept your claim and offer to pay for your losses
  • Deny your claim
  • Accept your claim but offer less than you need

In most cases, if the offer is too low, an attorney will attempt to negotiate with the insurer for a fair settlement amount.

File Your Civil Lawsuit

If an insurance claim doesn’t yield compensation for your losses, you could file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.

To help guide your case to completion, your lawyer may:

  • File your lawsuit in civil court
  • Review all court-related paperwork for accuracy and completion
  • Show how the at-fault party caused your collision
  • Dispute any unjust allegations of fault and negligence
  • Take depositions from witnesses
  • Cross-examine the other party’s witnesses
  • Consult with field experts on your case
  • Advocate for the compensation you need before a judge and jury

A Lawyer Can Determine Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident

Jeff Morris, Personal Injury Attorney

Using the evidence from your case, your legal team can determine who should pay for your losses. Remember this: if you’re considering legal action, it’s in your best interest to act quickly. If the statute of limitations expires, it won’t matter who caused your accident because the court will automatically dismiss your case.

To get started, contact a personal injury lawyer now.


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Thank you so much for your advice! I highly recommend him! Mr. Morris was extremely helpful with helping me understand the situation.
What seemed very confusing to me he actually broke everything down so I could understand what everything meant. Thank you so much for your advice! I highly recommend him!

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