Once the dust and your nerves settle after a car accident, the first questions you are likely to ask yourself are “What happened?” and “Who’s fault is it?”

Who caused the accident or who is at fault is dependent on your state’s definition of negligence. Comparative, modified comparative, and contributory are the three types of negligence Insurance companies use to determine who is at fault in a car accident.

Comparative Negligence
Comparative Negligence is defined as your percentage of fault compared to the other party involved. This means you can still seek damages in proportion to your degree of responsibility for the accident even if you’re only partially at fault. For example, if the other driver involved is determined to be only 60% at fault, then you can seek up to 60% of the settlement from the other driver’s insurance. Negligence laws differ in each state, so be sure and check with your local police department and insurance company.

Modified Comparative Negligence
Some states use modified comparative negligence to determine fault. Illinois for example, only
allows you to seek damages from the other party’s insurance if you are found to be less than 50% at fault.

Contributory Negligence
Contributory Negligence is black and white when determining fault. To seek damages, you must be 0% at fault in an accident. A good example of this type of negligence is if your car is struck while legally parked on the street. The other driver would be 100% at fault and in that instance you could seek compensation for car repair expenses.

So what can you do to help determine fault in a car accident?

Get A Police Report:
A police officer’s objective and more reliable report can help insurance companies more accurately determine who is at fault in a car accident.

Gather Evidence:
Take photos of the accident and get information from eyewitness drivers and provide it to your insurance company. Gathering evidence can help support your case if you believe the other driver is at fault.

Avoid Admitting Fault:
State only the facts of the car accident as it happened to you. Always cooperate with police and exchange information with the other drivers involved, but avoid admitting fault. Ultimately, the car accident could be a result of factors unknown to you, so allow fault to be determined objectively by the police and your insurance company.

Sometimes determining negligence or fault can be tricky. Remember that the legal definition of negligence can vary from state to state, so always check with local authorities and your insurance company if you have any questions. If you live in Utah and need legal help reach out to Craig Swapp & Associates for a free initial consultation.

Written By: Ryan Swapp     Legal Review By: Craig Swapp