How fault of an accident is determined

Written on behalf of Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

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Drivers in California have a responsibility to keep themselves and other drivers safe on the road. This includes understanding road signs, knowing traffic laws, paying attention and not getting behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs. Unfortunately, collisions do occur and they are often the result of negligence by one of the drivers involved. There are a number of ways law enforcement authorities can determine who was at fault, and this is important for insurance and legal reasons.

According to FindLaw, finding fault may be as easy as looking up vehicle codes and arguing the other driver did not follow them. In certain accidents, such as rear-end collisions and those involving left-hand turns, it is usually easy to figure out who is liable for damage and/or injuries. Other accidents may not be as clear, and this is when the police should be involved. The attending police report goes a long way when fighting a claim.

According to the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles, there are a number of factors a police officer will investigate to help determine who the negligent driver was. Some of them include:

  • Type and location of vehicle damages
  • Type of collision
  • Condition of the road
  • Traffic volume at time of accident
  • Travel direction
  • Injuries of drivers and passengers
  • Speed of the vehicle
  • Weather
  • Point of impact
  • State of driver after accident, such as sober or potentially under the influence

The testimonies of the parties involved, as well as any witnesses, can also have a major impact when it comes to determining fault. 



Jeffrey R. Smith

Jeffrey R. Smith

Managing Partner

Robert B. Waldsmith

Robert J. Waldsmith

Partner, 1999

William B. Smith

William B. Smith

Partner, 1978

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