How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

Personal Injury | December 20, 2021

If you get into a car accident in Massachusetts, the recovery process can be long and arduous. It will often begin with a determination of fault – one of the most important steps in the car accident claims process. A car insurance company must determine fault before it decides whether to accept or reject a claim to benefits. While each case is unique, understanding how fault is often determined can help you know what to expect from your own car accident case.

Fault vs. No-Fault Laws

After a car accident, you must navigate the car insurance process to seek financial benefits for your medical bills, property damage and other losses. Every state has its own insurance laws, but most fall into the categories of either fault or no-fault rules. Although fault states are more common, Massachusetts is a no-fault state. With this type of insurance law, all drivers file claims with their own car insurance providers, regardless of who caused the car accident. This is a first-party insurance system that does not require drivers to prove – or even determine – fault.

If, however, a victim’s injuries reach the state’s tort threshold, he or she can file a third-party lawsuit outside of the no-fault system. This threshold is at least $2,000 in reasonable medical expenses, a broken bone, the loss of a body part, permanent and serious disfigurement, the loss of sight or hearing, or death. If a car accident causes serious injuries, the victim can bring a claim against another driver’s car insurance company in Massachusetts. In this case, the claimant must prove fault.

Evidence From the Scene

Determining and proving fault after a car accident requires evidence. Evidence refers to facts, information or physical items that prove that a belief or assertion is true or valid. It is wise to start collecting evidence that proves someone is at fault for a car accident right away, while you are still at the scene of the crash. This evidence could include:

  • Admissions of guilt or fault
  • The police report number
  • Eyewitness accounts and statements
  • Photographs and video footage
  • Surveillance camera footage
  • The damage to each vehicle
  • Physical evidence, such as skid marks

If you cannot collect evidence yourself as a crash victim, trust a friend or family member to do so for you. Calling 911 from the scene of the accident can also help, as an officer will appear at the scene to collect information and evidence for you. It is important to act quickly to collect any evidence at the scene before the city can send workers to clean up the crash.

Insurance Company Investigation

Once you file a car insurance claim – whether it is with your own insurance company or the other driver’s – the insurer will initiate its own crash investigation. The insurance company will have the resources to obtain evidence beyond what is available at the scene, such as:

  • Information from those involved and bystanders
  • Interrogatories and depositions
  • A copy of the police report
  • Proof of injuries and losses
  • Traffic and crash reconstruction experts
  • The black box, after a commercial truck accident
  • Driver drug or alcohol test results
  • Cell phone records
  • Medical records, scans and x-rays

The insurance company will use all of this evidence and other information to determine who caused the car accident. Cooperate with the insurance company as much as you can during the crash investigation. Do not admit fault for the accident, however, and do not offer more information than is strictly necessary. 

When to Contact a Lowell Car Accident Attorney

If the car insurance company’s investigation determines that you are at fault for the crash, contact an attorney to find out if you have grounds to appeal this decision. If fault goes to the other driver, consult with a lawyer before accepting a settlement. A Lowell car accident lawyer can help you pursue fair and full financial compensation for your car accident in Massachusetts.