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Who Determines Fault in an Auto Accident?


It’s important to prove who’s at fault in an auto accident because the at-fault party’s insurance company is generally responsible for paying the damages to the other party/parties. But who determines fault in an auto accident? It’s usually the insurance companies who determine fault. However, there’s more to this process.

What’s the Process for Determining Fault?

Once you’ve filed an accident report with your insurance provider, the company will assign you a claims adjuster. Claims adjusters are people who investigate insurance claims to determine the extent of liability and they’ll do this by reviewing all the available car accident evidence. That’s why it’s important you gather as much relevant evidence – especially at the scene of the accident.

Some examples of evidence include:

  • Photos/videos of the damage (to your vehicle, surrounding vehicles, property, the road).
  • Dash cam footage.
  • Witness testimonies.
  • Police reports.
  • Medical records.

Note: It’s vital that you don’t admit fault in any shape or form for the accident. For example, even apologizing to the other driver after an auto accident because you’re concerned and trying to be polite can be interpreted as an admission of guilt. Your claims adjuster will take these sorts of behaviors into consideration.

What is No-Doubt Liability?

One type of situation, known as no-doubt liability, is particularly helpful in determining fault. No-doubt liability refers to accidents where it’s almost always the other driver’s fault. They’re often nearly impossible to contest with and often result in quick settlements for the victims.

Some examples of no-doubt liability situations are:

  • Rear-end collisions – unless it’s your own carelessness that caused the accident (such as not using turn signals or having a faulty brake light).
  • Left-turn accidents – if you’re driving straight and the other driver tries to make a left turn, it’s nearly always that driver’s fault unless:
  • You were speeding
  • You ran a red light
  • The turn was legal but something unexpected caused the other driver to slow down while making the turn.
  • DUI crashes – driving while under the influence is illegal in every state and you’ll always be found at fault for the accident.

State Laws and Requirements

Each US state has its own laws and requirements surrounding auto insurance. In Mississippi, all drivers in a household are required to be covered by liability insurance and should keep proof of insurance in their car at all times.

The minimum coverage amounts required are:

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury.
  • $50,000 per accident for bodily injury.
  • $25,000 per accident for property damage.

Mississippi is also an at-fault state (Tort state), meaning that the driver who’s at fault must pay the victim’s medical expenses. The driver will also have to pay any compensation pursued by the victim – such as for pain, suffering, and lost wages.

What About Truck Accidents?

Determining fault for a truck accident is a little harder than the average auto accident. It’s not just the truck driver and the insurance company who are involved. Often, the truck company is also involved and in addition to the driver, they too can be held liable for the accident.

This is because truck companies have a duty of care to all of the other motorists with whom their trucks share the roads. They need to ensure their trucks are in safe, working condition and that the drivers that they hire are qualified and well trained to the same standard, no matter how much experience they might have.

Why Might a Truck Company be Held Liable?

The most common reasons for holding a truck company liable for an accident are:

  • Negligent hiring practices – the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have put in place certain requirements truck drivers must meet before they can obtain a commercial driver’s license and before a truck company can hire them. If they’ve shown irresponsible behavior in the past (such as speeding tickets and DUI accidents), the truck company should carefully consider this before hiring.
  • Poor vehicle maintenance – the law requires truck companies to maintain their trucks and to keep a regular and accurate maintenance log. A truck accident due to poor maintenance can mean the truck company is held liable for injuries and property damage. If there were defective truck parts, the manufacturer can be held liable too.
  • Violating state and federal laws – if a truck driver violates certain laws, such as the Hours of Service (where they work longer than the legal hours without taking a break), they’re putting other motorists in danger. And it won’t just be the driver who’s at fault – the company will too.

What to do if You’ve Been in an Auto Accident

If you’ve been in an auto accident, whether it’s a regular passenger vehicle or a truck, your next steps are important.

1. Keep Records of all Expenses Since the Crash
As well as evidence of the accident, you should also keep a note of all the expenses. This can include medical expenses, the cost of ongoing treatment, and loss of income (past and future). Keeping a note of them means it’s much easier should you wish to seek compensation.

2. Make a Claim Within Three Years of the Crash
In Mississippi, the statute of limitations is three years. This means you have three years after your accident to file a claim. If you wait longer than three years, a court has the right to refuse your claim and you might never be able to get the full compensation you deserve.

3. Choose the Right Attorney
There are many factors that contribute to a successful claim and one of the most important ones is choosing the right lawyer to represent your auto accident case.

You need to find a lawyer who is:

  • Qualified.
  • Experienced in personal injury – if you can find a lawyer who has experience in handling cases similar to yours, it’s even better.
  • Highly recommended by other lawyers and clients – this means they excel on a professional and personal basis.
  • Someone you can trust – the right lawyer will be someone who has your best interests at heart and can win you the compensation you deserve.

At Coxwell & Associates, we’ve been representing Mississippians for over 35 years. Our team of expert lawyers is experienced in handling a wide variety of personal injury cases, including auto and truck accidents. We offer case consultations so contact us and get started today.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended for general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.