How to Tell Who Is At Fault in a Car Accident

Car accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, often leaving both drivers unsure of what just happened. It can be challenging to know how fault is determined in a car accident. However, determining fault is important because the person at fault is generally the person who pays for the damages. If you are charged with causing an accident, our car accident attorneys can help you navigate every step of your case.


Damage Tells a Story

One way to determine who is at fault in a car accident is to look at the damage to both vehicles.

If one vehicle has damage to the passenger side and another has front-end damage, the driver with passenger-side damage is likely at fault. That driver may have run a red light or pulled out of a driveway without looking. This means that if someone pulls out in front of you and you hit them, it likely isn’t your fault. If one car is damaged on the back and the other on the front, it is likely that the driver who hit the car from behind is at fault. In situations when the damage is more difficult to comprehend, an accident reconstruction expert can analyze damage to determine who is at fault.

Although there are some cases when the damage tells a clear story, there can be less obvious scenarios. In these situations, it’s important to take a look at other factors in addition to the damage.


Other Factors to Determine Fault

In addition to car damage, other factors contribute to how fault is determined in a car accident. Other points of investigation include:

  • Point of impact
  • Sudden acceleration
  • Angle of the steering wheel
  • Anti-lock braking
  • Headlight use
  • Tire marks

In addition to the physical evidence at the scene, witnesses are interviewed and asked to recount what they saw. This can help determine if a driver was speeding or not paying attention to the road.

The driving conditions are also examined when determining fault. Traction can be lost when a vehicle encounters ice, debris, or a spill. Another determining factor is the weather at the time of the crash. A snowy or rainy day might cause visual impairment or loss of traction.


Gather Evidence and Contact Information

After the police have been called if needed and everyone involved in the crash is safe, it’s important to gather evidence at the scene. This can make it much easier to tell who is at fault in a car accident.

If there are any witnesses at the accident, make sure to write down their names and contact information. This will make it easier to prove fault if the physical damage doesn’t show clear fault.

Try to take photos of the damage to both cars. If there is anything other relevant information, such as debris on the road, be sure to document that as well. If there isn’t evidence of the crash scene, it will be more difficult to determine fault after the fact. Photo evidence is a great way to provide a clear picture of what happened.


No-Fault Car Accidents

In some situations, neither driver is legally at fault for medical fees. A no-fault car accident happens when you live in a no-fault state

If you are in a car accident and live in a no-fault state, instead of submitting the claim to the other driver’s insurance company, you submit the claim to your own insurance company. Your insurance company will pay the damages regardless of who was legally at fault for causing the car accident. This means that you don’t need to worry about your claim being denied because the fault is being disputed. However, with a no-fault accident, you aren’t guaranteed a settlement and you can’t usually recover pain and suffering damages. The coverage drivers receive depends on the state, but the drivers could receive medical fees, lost wages, or funeral expenses.

Even if you live in a no-fault state, it is still important to determine who is at fault in a car accident. Although medical fees are paid by your insurance company, damage claims are still paid by the negligent driver’s insurance. In this situation, auto liability coverage will be used to help pay for damages.

The idea behind a no-fault system is that auto insurance costs less because smaller claims don’t go to court.



Car accidents are a scary experience. Even though you know how to tell who is at fault in a car accident, it is a good idea to contact a car accident lawyer. An experienced lawyer can help you protect your rights and determine fault in the event of a lawsuit.

If you’ve been found at fault in a car accident, contact our expert personal injury lawyers today for a free consultation.