How Fault is Determined in Southern California Auto Accidents

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There are several factors that California insurance investigators will consider when determining fault in an auto accident, such as witness statements, police reports, video footage, and medical records.

In a split second, your life can change in a dramatic way. One minute, you are traveling along a Southern California highway on your way to work, and the next minute, you are assessing yourself for injuries in the midst of a chaotic scene. Auto accidents are an unfortunate reality for many people every day—even for the most attentive and responsible drivers. A momentary lapse in attention behind the wheel can cause considerable damage that requires expensive repairs and lengthy physical recoveries. If you sustained an injury in a car accident, you have the right to seek compensation to help you cover the medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses associated with your injuries. However, it’s important to understand that injured parties in California may recover compensation that’s proportional to the percentage of fault they share in causing the accident. This model, called the comparative fault system, can be confusing and challenging to navigate, especially as you cope with other significant tasks like your physical recovery, financial concerns, and other considerations triggered by the collision. Let’s take a look at how California’s comparative fault system influences fault determination and auto accident claims.

California’s Comparative Fault System

Like many states, California adheres to a comparative fault system to determine liability for car accident damages. Under this model, more than one party may be held responsible for causing the collision, which is often the case. For instance, one driver may not signal properly when changing lanes, causing them to collide with another vehicle that is exceeding the posted speed limit. In such an event, it’s likely that both drivers would share some degree of responsibility. When you move forward with your accident claim, you will only be able to recover a certain amount of the total award (directly proportional to your percentage of responsibility in causing the accident). For example, if you’re awarded $200,000 in total damages, but it’s been determined that you were 20 percent responsible for causing the incident, you may only recover 80 percent of the total ($160,000). In most cases, the at-fault party’s insurance company will likely be responsible for covering the costs of your injuries and other damages you sustained in the auto accident. However, if the compensation you recover from their insurer is insufficient to cover all of your damages, you have the option to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party in civil court.

Determining Fault in California Auto Accidents

When the parties involved in an auto accident report the incident to their insurance companies, insurance adjusters will step in to oversee these claims. The insurers will investigate the accident to establish fault (i.e., the degree to which each party was to blame for causing the collision). There are several factors that investigators will consider when determining fault. Below are just a few to give you an idea of what types of evidence may be used in your claim.

Witness Statements

Many auto accidents occur in public, so there are usually witnesses who can provide descriptions of the events leading up to the car accident. For example, if a pedestrian was walking along a sidewalk and saw one driver rear-end another car, this person can describe what happened or shed light on a driver’s negligent actions (i.e., the driver may have been texting when their vehicle rear-ended the car in front of them). Although witness statements can be helpful in guiding an investigation, they are not always reliable. Investigators will rely on other types of evidence to provide a clearer and more accurate picture of the events leading up to the collision.

Police Reports

Someone should notify local law enforcement when an accident involving substantial property damage or physical injuries occurs. The responding officer will arrive at the scene to compile a police report, which serves as an objective account of the scene. Investigators will examine the police report for details about the accident, such as inclement weather that created slippery road conditions or a driver operating their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Security or Traffic Camera Footage

Many accidents occur at major intersections or along stretches of roads that are under some type of video surveillance. Investigators can pull any relevant footage from nearby cameras and review this information to establish fault. Video footage tends to be quite valuable to insurance investigators, as it can provide clear insight into the behaviors and actions of the drivers in the moments leading up to and at the moment of the accident.

Medical Records

Insurance agents investigating an auto accident can review medical records to determine whether the parties’ accounts of the accident align with the injuries they sustained. For instance, if one party claims that the other driver rear-ended them, the investigator can expect that the injuries they sustained are consistent with this type of impact. Whiplash and other injuries associated with extreme forward momentum would help to support the injured party’s claim that the other driver rear-ended them with significant force. However, it’s essential to recognize that insurance adjusters do not have the right to access your entire medical history unless you grant them permission. Beware of insurance adjusters who may attempt to gain access to your medical records beyond the scope of the accident, as they will likely try to identify prior injuries or preexisting conditions that could explain your new injuries (which would weaken your auto accident claim).

Contact a Dedicated Temecula Car Accident Lawyer Today

Auto accident injuries can be devastating. However, you do not have to go through this challenging and overwhelming period alone. Enlisting the guidance of a seasoned and caring Murrieta auto accident lawyer is the best way to maximize your settlement offer and ensure that you obtain the compensation you need to get your life back on track.

If you have suffered an injury in an auto accident in Temecula or Murrieta, call Hales & Associates, A Professional Law Corporation, today at (951) 489-3320 to speak with a dedicated and caring car accident attorney.

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