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How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident Case?

December 1, 2020Car Accidents

Drivers in Arizona regularly have to contend with vehicle accidents. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, there were almost 130,000 total vehicle collisions reported during the latest year across the state. Out of these incidents, there were 53,809 total injuries and 982 total fatalities. However, even collisions that did not result in a fatality or an injury typically resulted in some sort of property damage. In the aftermath of a vehicle accident in Arizona, it is crucial that liability be determined. Arizona is a fault-based state when it comes to determining vehicle accident liability, and we want to discuss how this works.

The Importance of a Police Report

It is crucial for law enforcement to come to the scene of an accident in Arizona. Most car accidents must be reported to the police in this state, and a law enforcement officer will conduct an investigation into the incident. Their investigation typically involves making a preliminary determination of fault. They will examine the facts at the scene of the crash, speak to every driver and eyewitness involved, and fill out an official police report. This police report will be used by insurance carriers when working to determine compensation amounts.

However, there are times when police reports do not contain a determination of fault. Even when an accident report does determine fault, this does not necessarily mean that the person is legally accountable for the damages in a personal injury lawsuit.

Other Evidence Used to Determine Fault

Aside from a police report, there are various other types of evidence that could be used to determine fault, and this evidence can be gathered in the immediate aftermath of a crash as well as in the days and weeks after the incident. If a car accident victim is able to safely do so at the scene of the crash, they should use their phone or other type of camera to take photographs of:

  • The vehicles and any damage
  • Any injuries
  • Any possible causes of the crash
  • Traffic patterns
  • Weather conditions
  • Debris around the accident

Car accident victims should also get the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses to the incident. Eyewitness testimony could be a crucial element in proving fault.

Will an Insurance Carrier Determine Fault?

When a claim is filed with an insurance carrier after an Arizona car accident, the company will turn the case over to a claims adjuster who will supervise the investigation into the collision and make their assessment of fault. The adjuster will examine the accident, speak to witnesses, determine vehicle damage, examine medical reports, and issue their report back to the insurance carrier.

However, insurance claims adjusters will do what they can to limit the amount of money the insurance carrier pays out in a claim. This often works against the injury victim.

Will a Court Determine Fault?

If the insurance carrier does not offer a fair settlement or denies a claim, the injury victim may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover the compensation they need. A court case will consider arguments from both parties’ attorneys as well as the aforementioned evidence. Speak with a Phoenix car accident lawyer today for legal assistance.

Police reports and fault determinations by the insurance carrier cannot be used as accurate predictors of how a jury will respond to a case. Once a jury has heard from the witnesses and examined the evidence, they will make a determination of whether or not the alleged defendant indeed caused the incident and how much compensation the injury victim should be paid.