Auto Accidents - Who's At Fault


In most auto accident cases, it is very clear who is a fault. For example, there is no dispute that the light was red, a driver ran the red light, hit another car, and the driver admitted that he ran a red light. However, in cases where it is not clear as to who was at fault or where the at fault driver disputes that the car accident was his fault, there is a legal "test".

The legal "test" has two parts.

First, it must be proven that the driver who allegedly caused the car accident had a duty to act in a certain way so as to not harm another person.

Generally, people have a duty to act in a reasonable way considering the circumstances. And, most of the time, it is really a matter of common sense. For example, a driver has a duty not to run a red light. A driver has a duty to apply his car breaks when there is a hazard in front of him.

Second, it must be proven that the driver breached or broke his duty.

When drivers act in an unreasonable manner, they may breach or break the duty that they have to others. In the above examples, a driver that ignores a red light and drives through it breaches his duty act reasonably. The driver who sees a hazard in front of him, but does not apply his car breaks breaches his duty to apply the breaks and avoid the auto accident.

Sometimes, the same action can be or not be a breach of duty depending on the situation. For example, the speed limit may be 60 mph. On a clear day, it is safe, acceptable and not a breach of duty to drive 60 mph. However, in the middle of a storm with heavy rain or snow, it will likely be a breach of duty to drive 60 mph. The speed is the same, but the situation has changed. In heavy rain or snow it may be unsafe, unreasonable, and a breach of duty to drive 60 mph.

Another way of looking at it is to ask "was the driver doing what he is suppose to be doing?" If yes, the driver is probably not at fault for the car accident. If no, then the driver probably is at fault for the car accident.

I should point out that in a civil court, the burden of proof is by the "preponderance" and not "beyond reasonable doubt". This means that it must be proven that it is more likely than not that the driver breached his duty and was not driving the way he should have been driving.

Beware that in order to recover for personal injury from an auto accident, you also need to prove that the other driver's breach of duty caused your injuries and that you were in fact injured. This last point may seem odd, but there have been cases where people, who were not injured, wanted to recover damages from the other driver who did something wrong. Merely proving that the other driver did something wrong is not enough, you must also prove that you were injured in order to recover for personal injury from a car accident.

This is general information only. If you have any questions whatsoever, talk with a lawyer licensed in your state who has experience with car accident settlements.

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