How to Determine Fault in a Car Accident?

Proving fault in a car accident is not always easy, but it can be made easier if you follow these steps:

The first thing you should do is to call 911, to alert the police and emergency crews of your accident. This will ensure that you get a police report detailing the accident and it will also ensure that you and your passengers receive medical attention promptly. When speaking to the police and to the other driver, be sure not to admit fault. Even as simple as “I’m sorry” can be taken out of context to prove that you admitted to causing the crash.

This is one of the first things you should do after an accident, as long as you are not injured. If the other driver were to flee the scene of the crash before the police arrived, you would have visual proof as to who caused your accident. This can prove to be invaluable.

Collect the other driver’s insurance information, driver’s license number, name, and address. This can help you tremendously when you are filing an injury claim.

If you are uninjured, snap pictures of the accident scene and any details that you think would help your case. This could include broken signs, broken traffic signals, overgrown shrubs, skid marks, and road debris.

You should also take pictures of the cars and their relationship to each other on the road, as well as any damage the cars sustained. Be sure to take close-up pictures of the damage, as well as pictures from far away.

If there are any eyewitnesses, be sure to gather their information. Write down their names, addresses, and phone numbers so your attorney can talk to them if more information is required.

Call an attorney as soon as you are able. The sooner your attorney is on your case, the faster you can collect the money you deserve.

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Arkansas is an At Fault State

In the state of Arkansas, the person responsible for the accident is also responsible for the injuries and damages they caused. If you have suffered an injury in a car accident, you are able to collect compensation in one of three ways:

  • By filing a claim with your own insurance company
  • Filing a third-party claim directly with the “at-fault” driver’s insurance carrier
  • By filing a personal injury lawsuit

Arkansas is also one of just six states that have “add-on” no-fault laws. These laws allow policyholders to purchase and use their own Personal Injury Protection insurance to pay for medical expenses, etc. no matter who was at fault for the accident. It also allows them to file a personal injury lawsuit against the “at-fault” driver without restriction.

What is No Doubt Liability?

Certain types of accidents are almost always the fault of the other driver. These accidents are called “no doubt” liability because insurance companies won’t even bother to argue the vast majority of these cases, as there is little doubt in anyone’s mind who is at fault for the crash. Some of those “no doubt” liability crashes include:

  • Rear End Collisions – the car following behind you must leave enough space to stop even in emergencies. Even if you slam on your brakes, the driver behind you must be able to stop safely. If they cannot, then they will be at fault for the accident.
  • Left Turn Accidents – a car making a left turn is almost always liable for any car that is coming straight unless the other car was going through a red light or was going well over the posted speed limit.
  • DUI Accidents – the drunk driver will almost always be responsible for the accident. Even if you are found to be partly to blame for the crash, the DUI driver will bear the majority of the burden in most cases.

How Negligence Can Help Determine Fault?

In order to establish fault, you must show that the other driver was negligent. The theory of negligence is that anyone who acts in a careless way or causes injury will be legally liable for any resulting harm. In order to win a negligence claim and show fault, your attorney must prove that the other driver owed you a legal duty and they breached this duty by driving recklessly or carelessly. They must also establish that the resulting breach directly caused injuries and damages to you and/or your property.

There are numerous types of negligence, including:

  • Comparative Negligence – this occurs when you are partly responsible for the injuries to yourself and your property. If you are found to be partly to blame for the crash, you may be required to pay a percentage of the damages.
  • Pure Comparative Negligence – the driver’s damages are totaled and effectively reduced to reflect their portion of the crash. For instance, if you were awarded $100,000 after an accident, but found to be 10% responsible for the crash, then you would only receive $90,000 of that award.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence – the driver would not recover any damages if they’re found to be at least 50% or more responsible for the crash. Arkansas courts use a modified comparative fault rule.
  • Contributory Negligence – this occurs when you caused your own injuries but cannot collect any damages. Most states are doing away with this type of negligence.

Because your damages will be reduced by the amount you are determined to be “at fault,” the insurance company will try to pin some of the blame on you. After all, reducing the amount they must pay is their primary goal. They may claim that you were speeding at the time of the crash or that you were operating recklessly as well. This is an important part of the legal process and why it is so important to have a car accident attorney on your side fighting for you during this time.

Determining Fault for Different Types of Accidents

Different types of accidents may require a different type of investigation in order to determine fault, such as:

  • Single Car Accidents – the majority of single car accidents are the fault of the single car driver. Police reports often assign blame quickly and without a thorough investigation. But there are times when other drivers caused your single car accident or when poorly maintained roads or traffic lights led to your crash. If you believe that your single car accident was someone else’s fault, your attorney can lead a full investigation into the matter to clearly establish who is to blame.
  • Parked Car Accidents – parked car accidents are always the fault of the driver who was moving into traffic. When both cars are moving into traffic, determining fault can be trickier. Examining the damage to the cars and gathering eyewitness accounts become critical.
  • Multi-Car Accidents – multi-car accidents need to be investigated closely to determine who is at fault. Police reports are critical after a multi-car crash because the police are trained to examine crash damage and take witness statements into account when assessing blame. However, they are not infallible. An experienced attorney can examine the crash site, the damage to the vehicle, and perform a more extensive investigation in order to determine fault. In many cases, accident reconstruction experts may need to be called in order to fully establish the cause of the crash and who is to blame.

What to Do if You’re At Fault?

If you caused the accident and you believe you are to blame, take the following steps:

Even if you are to blame, it is the law to report any accident that causes damage to property or injury to another person. Failure to report an accident could be seen as leaving the scene of the crime.

Even if you believe the accident was your fault, never say “I’m sorry” or admit to causing the accident. After a crash, your adrenaline may be running high and you may not be considering all the factors that led to the accident. Perhaps you didn’t see the other driver, but perhaps they were speeding or driving drunk. Let the police investigate and avoid admitting to causing the crash.

You must answer all police questions but avoid saying anything incriminating. Do be honest in your recount of the accident, however.

Always be polite when dealing with the other driver and with police after an accident. Avoid aggressive behavior and if the other driver gets aggressive, seek help.

If you believe that there were contributing factors to your accident, be sure to collect the evidence. Take pictures of any overgrown shrubs or broken signs. Take pictures of crash damage and of the scene of the accident. These could help your attorney show that you are not completely to blame for the accident.

You must notify your insurance company when you are involved in an accident. They can attempt to negotiate with the other driver’s insurance company to have their car repaired and their medical expenses reimbursed.


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Let Our Attorneys Advocate for You

Determining fault after a car accident isn’t always straightforward. You could end up paying part of the accident costs – even when you did nothing wrong! That’s why you need an experienced Arkansas car accident lawyer on your side from the start.

With nine offices in Arkansas and Tennessee – Little Rock, Little Rock-Corporate Hill, Springdale, Conway, Hot Springs, Bryant, Jacksonville, Jonesboro, and Memphis– our personal injury lawyers are easily accessible when you need help.

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