After a car accident, insurance companies want to know who was at fault, because fault usually determines who is responsible for covering any damages caused by the accident. While it is certainly possible to prove fault or liability in a car accident without a police report, you should always get one if possible, because having one can make proving fault a whole lot easier.
Proving Fault With a Police Report
Police reports can provide helpful evidence of fault because they are an officer's official account of what happened. Reports often include detailed observations such as the length of skid marks, the position of vehicles on the roadway, the weather conditions, as well as 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 ticket at the accident scene. All of these details can be used by insurance companies 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, parties can use other evidence to show fault. Oftentimes, one of the parties involved in the accident 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/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 almost always 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 states Motor Vehicle Code — available in FindLaw Codes — for the law that applies to the type of accident that occurred.
Ask an Attorney About Assessing Fault
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 can be assessed.
Meet with a local car accident attorney to learn more about fault, insurance claims, and your legal options after a vehicle accident.