By Daisy Rogozinsky
March 24, 2022

If you are in a motor vehicle accident and make a claim to your insurance and/or file a civil lawsuit, the outcome of the case will be based on something called fault. In this article, we’ll explain what fault is and how it is determined in motor vehicle accidents. 

Key Takeaways

  • Fault is acting in a way (or failing to act in a way) that causes harm or suffering to another party
  • In civil law, it is essential to prove fault in order to hold somebody legally responsible for an act
  • There are four types of fault in common law including negligence, recklessness, intentional misconduct, and strict liability
  • In motor vehicle accidents, fault is determined based on evidence such as witness statements, photos, videos, and physical evidence
  • In motor vehicle accidents, it is possible that more than one party will be determined to be at fault

What Is Fault?

In law, fault refers to when somebody acts negligently or fails to act reasonably or according to law or duty. It can refer to both a harmful act or a failure to act, but in either case, it must result in some form of loss, injury, or suffering to another party. Fault is acting in a way that is ignorant, careless, or negligent. 

In civil law, fault is an essential element in order to be able to legally hold a party responsible for an act or crime. 

Common law recognizes four types of fault:

  • Negligence - being careless or inadvertently acting in a way that causes harm or damage
  • Recklessness or wanton conduct - a willful disregard for the safety and well-being of others
  • Intentional misconduct - conduct by a person who knows, at the time of the act, that their conduct is harmful to the health or well-being of others
  • Strict liability (regardless of fault) - liability imposed without finding fault in the form of negligence or intent

Fault in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Fault is a major part of motor vehicle accident insurance claims and legal cases. In order to determine who pays for damages or injuries resulting from the accident, fault must be proven.

Many factors play into who is ultimately found at fault in a motor vehicle accident. All parties involved in the accident as well as any witnesses are able to contribute statements with relevant information about what occurred. It is also possible to review evidence such as photos and videos from the scene, injuries, skid marks, and paint on a vehicle. 

When insurance companies are involved, adjusters will take on the work of determining who is at fault for the accident. This is how it is determined which insurance company will pay for damages and how much will be paid.

One factor worth considering is that it is not always the case that one party is completely held responsible for the accident. In many cases, more than one driver is determined to be at fault for the crash. The insurance companies may assign a percentage of fault to determine which portion of the damages will be paid by which insurer. 

Even if you don’t believe you are at fault for a car accident, the insurance companies may make a different determination. That is why it’s important to work with an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer who can help you receive a fair settlement.

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