Determing Right-Of-Way And Fault In A Car Accident

At some point in your driving life, there is the possibility that you will be involved in a car accident injury As you may know from experience, the first question you will likely have is: “Whose fault was it?” It is important to understand how fault is determined in a car accident, and what affect a determination of fault has on insurance settlements for your personal injuries and property damage.

Intersections are one of the most common places for accidents to occur because drivers are often unclear on who should yield right of way to whom. However, there are definitive rules about who gets to go, and knowing them could save your life the next time you come to a crossroads.

In the case of a car accident, it is important to determine who is at fault, and which driver had the right-of-way at the time of the accident.

When driving, be sure to always obey the following rules:

  • Controlled intersections. At intersections with traffic lights or stop signs, obey the signals! This simple step is the easiest way to stay out of trouble.
  • Intersections – not controlled. Yield to cars already at the intersection. If you and another car arrive at the intersection at the same time, then yield to the car to the right.
  • Intersections with multiple-lane roads. When a one- or two-lane road intersects with a larger road, the driver on the smaller road must yield to cars on the multi-lane road.
  • T -intersections. When a road dead-ends into a through street, the driver on the dead-end road must yield to traffic on the other street.
  • Highway exit ramps. When an access road intersects with a highway exit ramp, drivers on the ramp must yield to cars on the access road. Likewise, if a car is entering a controlled-access highway, the car on the on-ramp must yield to any vehicle on the highway.

When The Lights Go Out…

Another situation that often arises, especially when a strong storm passes through, is when a street light at a controlled intersection is either blinking or not functioning.

It always seems that some people use the rules applicable to non-controlled intersections- but with a four way stop the decision is not so easy. For instance, if you and a car in the lane next to you are travelling in the same direction and the car next to you stops at the light before you get to the light and then subsequently has the next turn to go. Should you also go if you arrive just in time to go but not make a full stop?  Or wait your turn and allow all the other drivers already at the stop to go?

It is treated as a two way stop (not a four way stop – unless it is red in all directions then it is a treated as a four way stop). However if it is stuck red for you and stuck green for the other road, you had better not treat it as a four way stop or you can get into a serious accident.

The best rule for all situations: Always drive as if you are the one to yield right of way. Never assume that others will yield when they should.

How Fault for Car Accidents Affects Car Insurance Claims

Car insurance in most states is fault-based. If an accident happens in a fault or tort state, the at-fault driver’s insurance company typically helps pay for automobile repairs, medical bills, and other losses like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and lost wages. If the other driver is completely at fault, typically they, and their insurance company, will be responsible for all damages.

However, some states, such as Louisiana, use a strict form of comparative negligence. This means that more than one driver can be at fault for the same accident. For example, if two drivers attempt to merge into the middle lane at the same time, each not seeing the other and colliding, both drivers may be at fault. If each driver is found to be 50% at fault, then each driver is responsible for 50% of the settlement.

So, even if you are deemed partially at fault, you can seek compensation in proportion with your degree of fault. If a speeding driver rear-ends you after you suddenly changed lanes, it may be determined that both of you bear a degree of fault. If the other driver is found to be 60 percent responsible and you’re held 40 percent responsible, you may seek up to 60 percent of the settlement from the other driver’s insurer.

Get a Police Report for Every Car Accident

The police report plays a key role in the insurance company’s determination of fault. The police’s official account of what transpired is considered more reliable than accounts from those involved (which may conflict with one another or reflect personal biases). Insurance companies use the police report to understand how the accident occurred and get a clear idea of who caused the accident. Essentially, the police report will break the “my word against yours” tie.

Hurt? Contact us today:

If you are involved in a car accident, contact Morris Bart’s team of personal injury attorneys to handle your case.

May 20, 2013 | Categories: Auto Accidents, Legal Tips |