How is fault determined in a car accident?

PUBLISHED 15 Jan 2020

Have you been involved in a car accident? How can you determine who is at fault? Many accident cases end up in a legal battle between parties, because it cannot always be easily determined who is at fault. In the majority of cases fault may be determined to be shared by both parties, although the apportionment may not be equal.

What creates an at-fault situation?

All drivers have a duty to other road users to take reasonable care. If it can be determined that anyone involved in the accident was not taking reasonable care, they can be found negligent and at fault. The top identifiers of negligence consist of:

  • Speeding
  • Failing to obey traffic lights or signage
  • Driving while intoxicated or otherwise under the influence
  • Failing to “keep a proper lookout”

If you are hit by another driver and they are found at fault, you can make a claim against them for damages. This can include any losses resulting from the accident, including damage to your vehicle.
However, if your actions also played a part in the accident, both drivers may be found at fault. This is called ‘contributory negligence’, and may be apportioned between you and the other driver in any percentage split. In such a case, you may be responsible for bearing part of the cost of the damages.

What is an example of contributory negligence?

Suppose you are entering an intersection, and you have the right of way. Another driver disregards your right of way and also enters the intersection, causing a collision. However, you were speeding when you entered the intersection, so a magistrate finds you to be 30% responsible for the accident, while the other driver is 70% responsible.

The claims for damages are adjusted according to the percentage of fault each of you are responsible for. If the other driver’s claim for damages is greater, this could mean you end up owing the other driver damages and having to repair your own vehicle, even though your contributory negligence was less.

What is a “blameless” accident?

Occasionally, no-one may be found at fault for an accident. If a driver has a heart attack or stroke while driving, this may be a blameless accident. If the accident is caused by an animal running into the road, a claim may be possible against the owner of the animal, of domesticated; otherwise this may also be a blameless accident.

Should you seek legal counsel in the case of a car accident?

Since there are so many variables at play, you should seek the advice of a legal expert before filing a claim in case of a car accident. If you have suffered damages as the result of a collision, contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for advice before proceeding, and do not admit fault.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.