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Who Determines Which Party Is At Fault For A Car Accident

Who Determines Which Party Is At Fault For A Car Accident

In at-fault states, also known as tort states, the determination of fault for an auto accident can mean the difference between skyrocketing auto insurance rates and a free ride. The insurance company of the party determined at fault must pay for the damages of the party not at fault; it then passes this expense onto the policyholder.

How Fault is Determined

Fault is determined in at-fault states through a number of criteria. These include:

  • The testimony of expert witnesses with regard to accident reconstruction and damages
  • Testimony of other witnesses or law enforcement officers with regard to parties involved; for instance, was one party texting or talking on a mobile phone? Was one party clearly distracted while driving?
  • Positions of the different vehicles and damage done to each

Based on this information and lawyers' arguments, fault will be determined by a judge and jury. The judge will also determine who will pay for damages and how much will be paid.

Other Auto Accident Fault Situations

The parties involved in a car accident lawsuit will be both drivers. However, you may have to sue the driver's insurance company if it refuses to pay the money you are owed.

You may also sue the owner of the vehicle determined to be at fault for "negligent entrustment." This may be useful if you get into an accident with a teen driver using his parents' car or a business allowing a poor job candidate to drive a company vehicle.

If the accident was caused by a faulty vehicle such as malfunctioning brakes, a car accident lawyer may help you prove that the auto manufacturer was guilty for the accident.

Both lawyers will argue their clients' cases, and a judge will hear their arguments and make a decision.


A judge and jury will determine which party was behaving most negligently and which party, based on vehicle positioning and accident reconstruction, had a bigger role in causing damages from the accident. While lawyers do not have total control over who is determined to be at fault, legal representation will help your chances in a court of law. If you need to sue to get money for personal injuries caused by a car accident, consider hiring a car accident attorney!