Ever wondered how to determine fault in a car accident? It is important to understand auto accident fault determination and what effect it has on insurance settlements for your personal injuries and property damage. Fault is determined in alignment with traffic laws – and the driver who had the right of way is more likely to be not at fault (or at least not 100% at fault) in an accident.

Drivers: Do you know the laws for right of way?

Intersections are one of the most common places for accidents to occur because drivers are often unclear on who should yield the 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.

Intersecting roads, an aerial shot


  • Controlled intersections: At intersections with traffic lights or stop or yield signs, obey the signals and signs! This is the easiest way to yield right of way properly and stay out of trouble.
  • Intersections not controlled by stop or yield signs or traffic lights: 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 your 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-intersection right of way: When a road dead-ends into a through street, the driver on the dead-end road must yield to traffic on the through 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.
  • Drive at or below the speed limit! In any right-of-way situation, if you are driving at an unlawful speed, you forfeit your right of way.

When Traffic Lights Go Out

When a street light at a controlled intersection is either blinking or not functioning, you are required to approach with caution and yield the right of way to any vehicle that has reached the intersection first (i.e. before you), and then yield to vehicles to your right. Always drive as if you are the one to yield the right of way until you know your position – and never assume that others will yield when they should.

How Fault in Car Accidents Affects 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.

Partially at Fault: It’s a Thing

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 might be at fault. If each driver is found to be 50 percent at fault, then each driver is responsible for 50 percent 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. It’s Important.

The police report plays a key role in the insurance company’s determination of fault.

The official police 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.


For more than 30 years, the attorneys of Morris Bart, LLC have protected the rights of those who’ve been injured through no fault of their own and worked hard to get them the maximum compensation they may deserve. We’re specialists in injury claims, and with offices in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas, we are proud to be one of the largest personal injury law firms in the United States. If you are involved in a car accident, contact Morris Bart’s team of personal injury attorneys for a FREE consultation about your case.

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