Who Determines Fault in an Auto Accident in California?

by Staff Blogger | December 5th, 2022

In California, determining liability is integral to the personal injury claim process. In the event of an accident, the driver who is at fault is responsible for all financial losses.

However, some drivers who sustain severe injuries may need to fully understand who determines fault and the evidence required to prove the other party’s liability. When you hire a California auto accident lawyer from Berg Injury Lawyers, they can help you determine liability and how it may affect your case after a car crash.

What Is an At-Fault/No-Fault State?

Many states require that drivers carry auto insurance, but car insurance laws vary depending on the liability situation. Car insurance laws around the country include no-fault and at-fault types of coverage.

No-Fault States

No-fault states require drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) and liability coverage. After an accident, all drivers are responsible for filing their insurance claims with their auto insurers, regardless of fault.

These states only allow drivers to sue for compensation and pain and suffering if their injuries and losses meet a specific threshold. For instance, a no-fault state with verbal thresholds enables injured drivers to sue when they meet the criteria for severe physical injuries.

Drivers with medical expenses that exceed statutory amounts can sue another driver in no-fault states with monetary thresholds.

At-Fault States

At-fault states require the driver who caused the accident to compensate the injured driver for their injuries and property damage. The injured driver can file an insurance claim under their property damage and bodily liability insurance coverage with the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.

However, the coverage only pays up to the auto policy’s limits. Injured drivers may sue at-fault drivers for additional compensation if their medical expenses and property damages exceed the limits.

Is California a No-Fault State?

California is not a no-fault state. It is an at-fault state that requires drivers to be liable for their actions in car accidents with substantial evidence. California drivers must carry liability insurance that follows the state insurance laws in case of an accident:

  • $5,000 for property damage
  • $15,000 for physical injuries or death of one party
  • $30,000 for bodily injuries or fatalities of multiple parties

When determining liability in a collision, the state follows pure comparative negligence, allowing shared fault between involved parties. Whether and how much compensation a person receives depends on how much responsibility they have for the accident.

As a result, the other driver may recover a portion of the damages, even if their liability exceeds yours. For example, if a jury finds you 30% at fault for an accident and the other driver 70% at fault, you only receive 70% of your damages.

The Process of Determining Fault

Following a car accident, insurance companies will look at the evidence and facts of the accident to determine the degree of fault. During the claims process, their adjusters look at the police report, investigate the accident scene, and evaluate medical records to determine a settlement offer.

Multiple factors can affect your case, such as where your crash occurred and what type of accident it was. For example, it may be difficult to determine who had the right of way in an accident occurring at a busy intersection. If there were no witnesses to the accident, the police officer may decide that you’re liable for the accident even though the other driver is at fault.

A California auto accident lawyer from Berg Injury Lawyers can investigate your case and help you prove fault. They understand the types of evidence needed to substantiate your compensation claim.  

How You Can Help Your Lawyer Prove Liability in a Car Accident

Your lawyer needs evidence to minimize your fault for the accident. Here are a few pieces of evidence you can obtain with your lawyer:

Eyewitness Statements

Ask pedestrians and passersby for their contact information and permission to get a statement. A statement from a credible witness may prove the at-fault driver caused the accident.

Surveillance Footage

Check if nearby homes and businesses have cameras pointed at the collision site. Many homes and businesses have surveillance cameras to monitor their properties.

Dashboard Cameras

Some passenger vehicles and commercial trucks have dashboard cameras facing the front and back of traffic. See if other drivers’ cars have a dashboard camera and ask them if they can lend their footage for your lawyer’s investigation.

Hire a Car Accident Lawyer to Help You with Your Case

California’s at-fault insurance system lets you prove liability and pursue compensation against the other driver. If you want to maximize your compensation, an experienced auto accident attorney can answer your questions and help you navigate the insurance claim process.

Contact our law office for a free consultation and learn how we can use evidence to determine liability for your claim.