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Accident Fault Determination Rules in California

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A traffic accident can result in minor or major injuries, and it can be difficult to determine who is at fault. Figuring out who is responsible for the crash often times depends on whether somebody was negligent. Accident fault determination rules can be complicated, which is why you want a lawyer on your side.

In most cases, everyone tries to avoid liability, even when they are responsible for the accident. There is also the idea an insurance company will only pay for a not at fault car accident. Usually if one individual involved in the car crash was less careful than another, the less careful person must pay for some of the damages of the more careful party.

Proving Fault in Different Car Accident Scenarios

Determining who is at fault for an accident is not always a simple process.

There are many causes of and scenarios that surround car accidents, including:

Parking Lot Accident

This accident occurs mainly in the city or parking lots; the vehicle that is moving or parking collides with a parked vehicle, regardless of external conditions (little space). Parking lot accidents are basically the same as other car accidents, but they are trickier to determine fault. Parking lots are subject to accident fault determination rules, which are just guidelines that insurance adjusters use to determine fault.

The liability will typically be on the driver who performs the maneuver that provokes the accident. In the event that the parked vehicle is in violation of a traffic law, it will only be credited to an infraction.

T-Bone Accident

A side impact collision occurs when a vehicle collides with the side of another one. Often called T-bone accidents or side impact, these crashes can be very dangerous because the car doors usually do not have the material needed to absorb the impact of a high-speed crash.

Rear-End Accident

This is one of the most common accidents – when someone is driving, the vehicle in front of us stops and there’s no time to stop. Next thing you know, you’ve rear-ended the car in front of you. In this case, the concept of the ideal distance between two vehicles often applies.

In a rear-end accident (99% of the time), the party that hits the back of the car in front of them is the one to blame. Even if the front vehicle stops abruptly and the vehicle behind it is driving at an adequate speed, it must always maintain a corresponding safety distance to avoid a rear-end collision.

Left Turn Accident

Another common traffic accident, a left hand turn accident occurs when a car making a turn to the left hits another vehicle. The car making a left turn is almost always at fault for a collision with a car coming straight ahead from the other direction. There are exceptions to this rule if you can prove:

  1. The car going straight ahead was speeding
  2. The car going straight went through a red light
  3. The car turning left started its turn when it was safe to do so, but then it slowed down (this is rare and hard to prove)

Changing Lanes Accident

It is an accident that occurs when there are two vehicles driving in parallel, each vehicle in its own lane and one of them gets hit. Generally speaking, you need to make certain you can safely change lanes before doing so. However, the other driver is also required to drive in a reasonably safe manner to avoid a wreck. This type of accident is tricky, can be a he said she said accident and can even end up with shared liability.

Accident in Intersection

Priority is the preference that a road or a vehicle has in respect to other roads or vehicles, this is according to the definition of the Californian traffic code. Intersection accidents are all too common. In fact, 96% of intersection-related accidents are due to driver error, according to the NHTSA, but some basic rules apply.

  • At unmarked intersections, except for roundabouts, the vehicle on the right has priority.
  • If two or more vehicles that cross in the opposite direction arrive at an intersection and one of them is going to turn left, the vehicle that is going straight ahead has priority.
  • When two vehicles that cross different roads arrive at an intersection and one of them is going to turn to the right, the vehicle on the right has priority.
  • When a vehicle wishes to turn left or right, it must first look for the lane closest to its turn and enter the other lane by the nearest one, according to the direction of traffic.

How to Gather Evidence After an Accident?

Auto accidents are unexpected and stressful. Even the most careful drivers may be involved in an accident, but you can learn more about what your car accident settlement might be worth and what to do after a car accident.

If you have recently had an accident, start by filing a claim. There are also some steps you must take to collect evidence immediately after and accident occurs.

  • Do not sign any documents unless it is for the police or your insurance agent.
  • Take immediate notes about the accident, including specific damage to all involved vehicles, witness information, etc.
  • If the name on the car registration is different from the driver’s name, figure out the relationship.
  • Be nice, but do not tell anyone that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.
  • Indicate only the facts and just analyze the accident with the police and your insurance agent.
  • If possible, do not leave from the scene of the accident before the police and other drivers.

Police Reports and Car Accidents

If the police come to the scene of your car accident (especially if they knew somebody was injured), they most likely made a written report of the accident. You can learn more about how to get a copy of a traffic accident report here, but be sure to get a copy of the report.

Depending on the accident, a police officer might clearly state in the report that someone violated a specific traffic law which caused the accident. Other times, the police report is vague and just mentions negligent behavior, but doesn’t confirm the violation caused the accident.

No matter what, make sure you get the police to file a report, get a copy for yourself and, if need be, you can fight a police report.

How Auto Accident Liability Is Determined

The fault or liability of a traffic accident is the cause that originated the event and is attributed to one or more persons involved in the incident. Generally, a negligent party does not take care of due diligence and creates a risk for itself and for third parties.

These terms are very technical, but basically, the fault is attributed to the person who caused the incident. Examples of recklessness are: answering the mobile phone while driving, speeding, driving under the influence, aggressive drivers or not respecting traffic laws.

In every accident, there is at least one liable party, unless the mishap has occurred due to an event of nature like floods, falling cascades, atmospheric elements or falling trees. There are even cases in which there is a shared fault or responsibility, that is, the fault of the accident falls on several participants.

For example, in a collision between a vehicle that skips a stop sign and another car that is speeding, it is obvious that the vehicle that skips the stop sign has the majority of the fault, but the one that is speeding could also have avoided the risk if it were driving at a safe speed.

Determining Fault by Location of Damage to Vehicle

In many cases, the damage done to the vehicles already serves to demonstrate the dynamics of the accident and define guilt. For example, in a rear-end collision, the fact that one of the vehicles has damage in the rear and the other has it in the front is already a strong indication of how the accident has occurred.

Even so, it is always better to gather more evidence than just photos. Although not in all cases, the photographs of how the vehicles were damaged after the event will usually facilitate the later reconstruction of the accident.

Contact Avrek Law to Discuss Accident Fault Determination Rules

If you have been involved in a traffic accident and you do not know if you are entitled to compensation, call our lawyers who will tell you how to proceed with your claim. Perhaps you’ve been involved in a Lyft or Uber driver at fault accident or one of the self driving car accidents that have been in the news of late – it’s hard to know what next steps to take, which is why it’s important to speak with a knowledgeable auto accident lawyer about your claim.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident don’t hesitate to contact Avrek’s car accident attorneys. With more than 50 years experience and more than $1 Billion recovered for our clients, we’re here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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