What Is An At Fault Accident & How Can You Avoid It?
The legal system can be confusing, which makes it difficult if you've ever been injured in an accident. This guide discusses injury law in California, and what an at fault accident consists of.
When we are involved in an auto accident, or any accident, our first thought is usually driven by basic survival. We check to see whether we are alright, and whether our passengers are safe, as well.
Most of us will then move outward, checking to ensure that the other party is also alive and well.
If we are able to successfully pass these checkpoints, we then turn to survey the property damage. It is at this point that the accusations about who caused the accident tend to surface.
What Is an "At Fault" Accident?
In some states, there exists a no-fault clause. This type of system requires individuals to carry their own personal injury and property insurance, and limits the rights of another party to sue. While there may be personal accusations toward each other in a no-fault state, it bears no legal weight.
People can recover their losses from their own insurance companies. Therefore, there is not a need to show that someone else contributed to the damage or injury.
California is not one of those states. In California, liability for contributing to the damage of another person, or their property, falls under two categories. Those categories are intention, and negligence.
California is an at-fault state. One of these two contributors for damage can be established after an accident, resulting in the seeking party receiving compensation from the person who has been determined as contributing to the unsafe conditions.
California law operates under the assumption that we have a duty of care toward our fellow human beings. Failure to exercise this duty results in a determination of fault in an at fault accident.
How Is Fault Determined?
One of the first steps in determining whether someone else is at fault for an auto accident is to discover whether the seeking party had a right to be in the location at the time of the incident.
If the suing person was involved in the accident while trespassing or otherwise acting outside of the law, there is less chance that a defendant can be held responsible.
We do not have a duty of care to provide safe conditions for those outside of our scope of reasonable expectations.
A second step in determining fault involves the extent of reckless behavior on the part of the seeking party. Individuals can play a part in their own damages, through not conducting themselves in a manner that is reasonable and expected for the situation.
In the case that the suing individual was under the influence of an illicit substance, for example, it may be found that – even though he or she had the right of way in an intersection – the intoxication resulted in failure to exercise due caution in crossing.
In cases where the person suing was in an acceptable location, but acted negligently toward his or her own safety, damages sought in a claim may be mitigated.
If no negligence on behalf of the person seeking damages is identified, the attention turns to finding all parties who bear responsibility for the accident.
In the case that the person who contributed to the accident was under the employment of a company, at the time, both the individual and the company may be sued.
If a person is involved in an accident while on a property, the property owner may be held liable for allowing the unsafe conditions to exist.
If a purchased vehicle malfunctions and causes injury, both the seller and the manufacturer of the vehicle may be held liable.
Things to Consider When Determining Fault
Complicated factors can all play a role in determining who is responsible for the accident. These include:
- Weather conditions
- Angle of the vehicles at the time of collision
- Speed which was being traveled
In order to protect yourself in such a situation, it is advisable to document the details of the incident with pictures; information logs; and eye-witness statements.
Call local law enforcement out to the scene, before any vehicles are moved. This is often the most secure way of establishing the conditions at the time of the accident.
How to Protect Yourself From At Fault Claims
The most prudent way to avoid being in an at fault accident is to be diligent. Follow all safety guidelines that are applicable to the situation. Prevention is the best protection.
- When driving: Use only hands-free devices; obey speed limits; and take the weather and road conditions into account.
- When on the job: Follow all employer regulations for safe driving; get enough sleep; and avoid medications which impair judgment. If one is an owner of property where vehicles drive or park, ensure that all hazardous property conditions are addressed immediately, and that repairs are completed by a licensed professional.
- Always ensure that your personal insurance is current, and that the amount of liability coverage is adequate for your situation.
Even with your due diligence, you may find yourself in an unavoidable situation. There isn’t a human on the planet who has the ability to foresee all possible disasters. Human beings are notoriously unpredictable. Because of this, it is unrealistic to think we can plan enough to avoid all potential accident scenarios.
What to Do If Involved in an At Fault Accident
If you find yourself involved in an at fault accident, despite all of your prevention efforts, it is time to initiate damage control.
The first step in damage control is to contact your insurance provider. In an at-fault state, it is usually the case that any damages which are being sought by the other party are not going to exceed the limits which are established by your insurance policy.
There does exist the possibility, however, that the lawsuit will be asking for compensation that exceeds this amount. If the courts decide in the prosecution’s favor, you may be expected to cover the remaining balance from your own pocket. If things are looking bad for your case, you may want to consider hiring an experienced auto accident attorney.