After a car accident, insurance companies want to know who was at fault. Fault usually determines who is responsible for covering any damages caused by the accident.
While it is certainly possible to prove fault or liability for a car accident without a police report, you should always get one, if possible. Having the accident report can make proving fault after an auto accident a whole lot easier.
Proving Fault With a Police Report
Police reports can provide helpful evidence of fault in a motor vehicle accident. They are a law enforcement officer's official account of what happened.
Reports often include detailed observations about the scene of an accident, such as:
- The length of skid marks
- The position of vehicles on the roadway
- The weather conditions
- Any property damage
- The time and location of the accident
Police reports can also include witness statements, the officer's opinion of how the accident occurred, and whether a driver was issued a citation at the accident scene. All of these details can be used by insurance companies and personal injury lawyers to determine fault.
However, police officers don't come to all accident scenes, especially when accidents are minor and there are no injuries. In these cases, accident victims can use other evidence to show fault.
One of the parties involved in the accident (perhaps the at-fault driver) may ask the other party not to contact the police for some reason. Not contacting the police can be a mistake. Despite whatever promises a party may make on the scene, without police involvement, they may be tempted to change their story about what happened later or give you false identification and contact information.
Proving Fault Without a Police Report
Fault has to be determined without a police report in many accident claims. When they don't have access to police reports, insurance companies gather information and evidence from all parties and any available witnesses.
That's why motorists are wise to gather their own evidence after an accident by taking photos and/or video, getting copies or photos of identification and insurance documents, and obtaining contact information from other drivers and witnesses, in addition to taking other steps to protect their claim.
Sometimes, the law assumes fault based on the type of accident that occurred. For example:
- Rear-end accidents: These accidents are almost always the fault of the driver who ran into the back of another vehicle.
- Left-turn collisions: These accidents are usually the fault of the driver taking the left turn.
Motorists who are unsure whether or not they're at fault should review their state's "Rules of the Road," which can often be found on the local DMV's website, in the state's highway manual, or in your state's Motor Vehicle Code (available in FindLaw Codes) for the law that applies to the type of accident that occurred.
How Does Car Insurance Determine Who Is At Fault in an Accident?
Car insurance companies determine fault based on the evidence presented to them, which can include:
- A police report
- Witness statements
- Photos or videos from the scene
- Statements from the drivers involved
They will consider traffic laws and any violations that happened at the time of the accident.
What Is the Role of an Insurance Adjuster After a Car Accident?
An insurance adjuster's job is to investigate your accident, assess the damage, and determine how much the insurance company should pay for your losses. They will review the police report, any photos or videos, witness statements, and more. They may also negotiate with the other driver's insurance company if there's a dispute about who was at fault.
What Does "Comparative Negligence" Mean in a Car Accident Case?
Comparative negligence allows a party's fault for an accident to be measured in terms of percentage. Your percentage of fault will reduce the amount you can recover from the other party. If you're found to be 30% at fault for an accident, for example, you could still recover 70% of your damages from the other party.
What Should I Do if the Other Driver Doesn't Have a Driver's License or Insurance?
If the other driver doesn't have a license or insurance, you should still get as much information as possible, including:
- Their name
- Phone number
- The make and model of their vehicle
Notify your insurance company and the police department about the situation, and an experienced attorney can help guide you through the next steps.
How Can I Get Compensation for My Medical Bills After My Car Accident?
Your car insurance may cover some of your medical bills, depending on your policy. If the other driver was at fault, their insurance might also be responsible for some of your costs. However, in some cases, you may need to take legal action to get full compensation.
Can I Prove That the Other Driver Ran a Red Light?
Yes, you can. Evidence that can help prove to the insurance company that the other driver ran a red light includes:
- Witness statements
- Traffic camera footage, if available
- A police report, if one was filed
Who Is Responsible for Assessing My Vehicle Damage?
Usually, a property damage adjuster from your car insurance company will assess the vehicle damage after an accident. They will estimate the cost of repairs, which the insurance company will use to determine how much to pay for your claim.
What Should I Do at the Scene of the Accident To Protect Myself?
At the scene of the accident:
- Call the police
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver
- Take photos or videos of the scene
- Gather contact information from any witnesses
If you are injured, seek medical attention immediately.
Do I Have To Pay a Deductible if the Other Driver Was at Fault?
Generally, if the other driver was at fault and their insurance company accepted liability, you will not have to pay your deductible. If you live in a no-fault state, however, you will have to pay your deductible even if the other driver was at fault. It's always a good idea to check with your insurance company.
Ask a Car Accident Lawyer for Legal Advice About Assessing Fault in Your Car Accident Case
Laws regarding fault vary from state to state. Most states have "at-fault" laws, while a few others have "no-fault" laws. States also vary in the way they treat negligence, which is a type of fault. It's crucial to understand state law before fault in your injury claim can be assessed.
Meet with a local car accident attorney to learn more about proving fault, insurance claims, and legal options after a vehicle accident during a free case review.