Who’s At-Fault in a Car Accident?

By Chris Dixon


It can be difficult to determine who is at-fault in an accident. The best defense towards proving that another driver is at-fault in an accident is gathering evidence from the accident, getting checked out by a doctor and calling a personal injury lawyer to go over your case with. Once this is done, a car accident claim will be filed and the court will decide who is at-fault in the accident. There are many different factors that go into deciding ‘fault’ such as your state’s laws on ‘fault’, the quality of evidence from the accident and negotiation tactics used by your personal injury lawyer.

Types of ‘Fault’

Each state follows a different ‘fault’ rule for deciding who is at-fault in a car accident. The more common ‘fault’ rules that are used are ‘Pure Comparative Negligence’, ‘’Modified Comparative Negligence’ and ‘Contributory Negligence.’

  • Pure Comparative negligence states that anyone harmed in an accident can receive damages from the accident, even if their percentage of ‘fault’ is more than the other driver’s.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence places a rule on those involved in an accident from receiving damages if they are more than 50% at-fault for an accident.
  • Contributory Negligence is the least common of the three ‘fault’ rules, but states that if either victim of the accident contributed to it in any way, even slightly, they are not eligible to receive damages for the accident.

What Does the Court Take into Account When Determining ‘Fault’?

When determining who is at-fault in a car accident, the court will look at evidence from both parties and their attorneys and see who is ‘more likely than not’ for causing the accident. In Missouri courts for example, the rule of ‘Pure Comparative Negligence’ is followed which means that anyone involved in the accident can recover a percentage of damages from the accident if they are not 100% at-fault. The court will come up with a percentage of ‘fault’ for both parties based on the evidence at hand. If the evidence shows that one driver is 85% at-fault for the accident and the other driver is 25% partially at-fault, for example, the driver who is more at-fault for the accident will receive a small portion of damages while the less at-fault driver will receive a higher amount in damages.

What Happens if Someone is Proved to be At-Fault for an Accident

If someone is determined to be completely at-fault for an accident, they will be liable for paying damages to the other party involved in the accident. The amount that the other party will receive is determined through negotiation between the negligent driver’s insurance company and the injured party’s local lawyer. This can take months to resolve and can involve a lot of back and forth between the insurance company and the injured party’s lawyer. If both parties are determined to be at-fault in a state that follows Pure Comparative Fault, the court will place a percentage of fault on each driver. For example, if both parties suffered $5,000 in damages, the driver who is 60% at-fault would only be able to collect $2,000 in damages, while the driver who is 40% at-fault could collect $3,000 in damages from the accident.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

Hiring an experienced lawyer is the best way to ensure that you will receive the most in damages for your car accident claim. Your local lawyer will have experience with your state’s legal system and handling cases similar to yours so they will know what negotiation tactics to use with the negligent driver’s insurance company to get you the highest amount in compensation. Without a lawyer, it is nearly impossible to receive the most in damages for a car accident claim. Laws are complex, and without the help of a personal injury lawyer and knowing your state’s traffic laws this could result in settling for a lower amount than your case deserves. To discuss your state’s laws and regulations and see how much your car accident claim is worth, contact the Dixon Injury Firm to begin exploring the specifics of your car accident case today.

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