Who is Liable in the Event of a Car Accident?

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, car accidents in the United States happen every minute. That means around 5.25 million car accidents happen throughout the country every year. That’s why having auto insurance is so important. However, before you can receive a payout for an accident in which you were not to blame, you need to be able to prove the liability of the other driver. Here’s a look at who is liable when car accidents happen.

Liability Can Affect Your Settlement

Liability for injuries and other damages as a result of a car accident usually falls on the driver who is negligent. While it’s difficult to place a definitive financial outcome on an average car accident settlement because specific injuries and circumstances don’t equate to the amount of money claimants can receive, one thing is sure: who is liable for the car accident can affect your settlement. Liability is almost always established by proving the negligence of the at-fault party. That involves proving the person failed to take ordinary care while driving. The best way of gaining the maximum financial pay-out is to prove the other party caused the accident. 

However, if you are found to have played a partial part in the cause of the car accident, which is known as contributory negligence, your final settlement will be less.


Is the driver or vehicle owner responsible?

While it’s true that the driver who causes an accident is usually the person responsible for any damages, it’s not always the case. For instance, complications can arise depending on who owns the car. If the driver and the owner are one and the same, he or she should be found negligent and it’s a clear-cut case. But if the driver isn’t the vehicle owner, you could have to claim against more than one person. Whether the driver or the car owner or both are responsible for paying damages is dependent on the specific circumstances and state. In California, the Vehicle Code states the owner of a vehicle is the one responsible for damages caused when someone else is driving with permission from the owner.


Who is liable for different types of car accidents? 

To get a better idea of who is liable for a car accident, let’s look at some different types of road accidents. Here are some of the most common.


Rear-end Collisions

According to the Washington Post, rear-end collisions account for 1.7 million crashes each year. The accident happens when a vehicle collides into the back of your car, or vice versa. While there are some exceptions, rear-end collisions are almost always the fault of the diver who drove into the car in front. The vast majority of these accidents happen when vehicles are following cars too closely or failing to pay attention to the road ahead.


Head-on Collisions

Head-on collisions can be deadly. They happen when two vehicles traveling in opposite directions collide with one another. Typical causes for head-on collisions include driving down a road the wrong way and leaving a lane only to end up in the oncoming traffic lane. The liability of head-on collisions almost always falls with the driver who has driven the wrong way or entered wrong-way traffic. However, additional liability could occur when the reason for the head-on collision was departing a lane due to trying to avoid another accident that had already taken place.


Sideswipe Accidents

A sideswipe accident happens when two cars that are traveling in the same direction make contact while moving. If this type of accident happens on the freeway, it can be very dangerous due to the high speeds. Liability for damages caused by a sideswipe accident depends on which driver had right of way and what each driver’s behavior was immediately before the collision.




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