How do insurance companies determine fault in a car accident in California?
The first question any personal injury attorney must answer in a car accident case is “who is at fault?” If you are rear ended while legally at a complete stop, then the person who rear ended you is clearly at fault. Insurance companies can rarely dispute liability in an accident like that. But not all cases are that straightforward. If you are in a car accident, the first thing you should do is call 911. Have law enforcement come to the scene to gather vital evidence and to take statements from all drivers and witnesses. This will document the basic facts and information your personal injury attorney will need when you call for a free car accident consultation. When a car accident is reported to the insurance companies, they will ask for all drivers’ insurance information and basic facts on how the car accident occurred. The specific location of the car crash is very important because traffic signals, cross walks, stop signs, and other traffic control devices may be present which can ultimately affect who had the right of way and who is at fault for causing the car accident.
General negligence is typically the basis upon which lawyers will file a lawsuit to prove your car accident case. Insurance companies use negligence to determine fault in a car accident case. The elements of a negligence claim are (1) a legal duty to use due care (2) breach of that duty (3) and proximate or legal cause in causing harm.
What does this all mean? All drivers in California must operate their vehicles like a reasonable person would, that is, the definition of using due care. A reasonable person would obey all laws, traffic control devices, lights, signs, drive in their lanes safely, use turning signals, not speed, and be as safe as possible given the circumstances. Insurance companies will inquire as to all these issues when a car accident claim is reported to determine fault. If you run a red light, make an illegal left turn, change lanes unsafely, or cross into the path of a vehicle who has the right of way, then odds are that you will be placed at fault for causing the car accident.
Another way insurance companies determine fault in a car accident is whether a driver violated any laws. The California Vehicle Code is the series of laws that govern all drivers in the state. Often, the reporting officer will cite a driver involved in a car accident for violating various vehicle code sections. For example, 22350 VC is the basic speed law in California and if you are speeding and cause a car accident you will be placed at fault for speeding, which can be an associated factor in deeming you at fault for a car accident. Another common vehicle code violation is for making an unsafe lane change. 22107 VC states that drivers can only change lanes when safe and only after signaling. The offense is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $2,380.00 and one point on the person’s driver’s license. 21801 VC makes it illegal for drivers to perform unsafe and illegal left turns or u turns. The law requires the right of way be given to drivers in oncoming traffic and to engage in a left or u turn only when it’s reasonably safe to do so.
These are just some common examples of how insurance companies will determine fault in a car accident. But not all rear end accidents are your fault. And not all left turn accidents are your fault. An experienced personal injury lawyer who has handled enough car accident cases and who knows the law can get liability turned in your favor. This is why it’s extremely important to never speak to the insurance company yourself and to contact a car accident lawyer for your personal injury case immediately.
If you were involved in a car accident and want a trusted lawyer to help you sort through the legal ins and outs of personal injury law, call the Shirvanian Law Firm in Glendale, CA at (877) 809-4223 today.