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How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

January 22, 2021 By Cerussi and Gunn P.C. Legal Team

When a car accident happens, those involved have many questions. One of the most common is, who is at fault for the accident? Insurance companies tell their policyholders not to admit fault while at the scene of car accidents, making it difficult to determine fault in many cases. Understanding who is at fault, and therefore liable, for a car accident in New Jersey often requires a deeper investigation. For more information, speak with a Monmouth County car accident lawyer.

When Would You Need To Determine Fault?

First, find out when it would be necessary to determine fault for a car accident in New Jersey. New Jersey is one of 12 no-fault states in the country. The insurance system in a no-fault state works differently than in fault states.

Injured crash victims will obtain benefits from their own insurance policies, with a type of insurance called personal injury protection, even if they were not at fault. In a fault state, on the other hand, the person or party at fault for the car accident will be responsible for paying for injuries. In New Jersey, you will only need to determine fault for a car accident that gave you an injury that reaches the state’s serious injury threshold.

  • Major bone fracture
  • Substantial scarring or disfigurement
  • Permanent injury
  • Loss of body part
  • Death of a fetus
  • Death

Only with a serious bodily injury are you able to file a claim against the at-fault party in New Jersey. In this scenario, you would need to determine who was at fault for your car accident. With a less serious injury, you can file a no-fault claim without determining fault.

When Might Someone Be at Fault for a Car Accident?

At the scene of a car accident, it is common for neither driver to admit fault. To protect your rights, do not admit fault or apologize to the other driver. Even saying, “I’m sorry,” could be viewed as an admission of guilt by an insurance company. Instead, exchange contact information with the other driver and wait for an official investigation to determine fault. The fault for a collision often goes to the driver who acted outside of the standards of care.

  • Broken traffic law. A driver breaking a traffic law is a common cause of auto accidents. Common examples are speeding, making an unsafe lane change and failing to yield the right-of-way.
  • Reckless driving. While a driver may unintentionally break a traffic law, reckless driving is an intentional act of wrongdoing. Examples include drunk driving, texting and driving, excessive speeding, and tailgating.
  • Rear-end collision. The fault for a rear-end collision generally goes to the rear driver, as it is the rear driver’s responsibility to maintain a safe following distance and hit the brakes when traffic slows.

A car accident investigation typically begins with law enforcement. Call 911 from the scene of the crash to create an official report of the wreck. The police can ticket the other driver for a traffic infraction, providing proof of that driver’s fault. The police can also interview eyewitnesses and take official photographs at the scene of the crash. From there, insurance companies or law firms may also investigate.

Proving Fault for a Car Accident in New Jersey

Suspecting another driver of causing your car accident is not enough to obtain financial compensation from that party. In New Jersey, an injured victim has the burden to prove the other driver’s fault as more likely to be true than not true (a preponderance of the evidence). This requires four main elements of proof.

  1. The driver (or another defendant) owed the victim a duty of care.
  2. The defendant breached his or her duty of care.
  3. The defendant’s error was the actual cause of the car accident.
  4. The victim suffered compensable losses in the crash.

Proof of fault in a car accident lawsuit may take the form of police citations, pictures and videos, eyewitness statements, medical records, accident reconstruction, and expert testimony. A motor vehicle accident attorney can help you collect evidence and present it to an insurance company – or a judge and jury if your case has to go to trial. A lawyer can help you prove a first-party or third-party car accident claim in New Jersey.