From the moment you step out of your car after an accident, to the moment the police report is filed, you’re going to be worried about one important variable: Who’s fault was it? Liability is a major concern because it can impact everything from your insurance claim to a personal injury lawsuit. If you’re the one at fault, it could mean paying big time. If you’re not at fault, it could mean someone owes you for their negligence.
Fault and liability aren’t things you can determine right away. A police officer will need to collect statements, review the scene of the accident, interpret the facts and write up their report. From there, it’s up to your insurance company and personal injury attorney to decide the next steps in pursuing damages based on the fault laid out in the police report.
One important factor that gets looked at every step of the way is the cause of the accident. Cause almost invariably determines fault.
Potential accident catalysts
If you’ve ever been in an auto accident, you know there are a lot of factors involved. It can be hard to keep track of everything going on! This is why it’s important to narrow down the nature of an accident to a core cause. Once you understand why an accident occurred, it’s easier to figure out how it happened and, more importantly, who’s at fault.
- Human error: This is far and away the most common cause of auto accidents and it’s an umbrella that stretches over a wide group of problems. Human error encompasses everything from recklessness—like driving 20-mph over the speed limit—to accidentally hitting the gas when you meant to hit the brake pedal. Humans are very fallible creatures, which means there’s a lot that can go wrong when we’re behind the wheel of a vehicle. When we make errors, they can very easily result in accidents.
- Medical conditions: Many medical conditions can cause automotive accidents if they occur while you’re behind the wheel. For example, suffering a stroke or seizure while driving makes it impossible to control your vehicle. Many individuals rely on medication to prevent health problems from affecting them while driving, but they’re not foolproof. Likewise, there are some medical conditions that prohibit operation of a vehicle, such as a harsh degree of hearing loss or blindness.
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving is something most often affiliated with teens, but it can happen to anyone. This is another broad-range definition that can encompass everything from changing the radio to texting to talking with someone in the back seat. When you’re not paying full attention to the road, there’s opportunity for an accident to occur at any speed. Anything that takes your full and complete attention from the road can be considered a driving distraction.
- Intoxication: Intoxication pertains to both drugs and alcohol, since both impair your ability to perform. Driving under the influence is another leading cause of auto accidents across the country and unfortunately, accidents involving intoxicants are far more deadly than other accidents. Intoxication generally prompts faster, more reckless driving while simultaneously slowing reflexes and stunting judgement. All of these things add up to accidents with harsher severity.
- Mechanical failure: There are a few different definitions of mechanical failure that can determine who’s at fault for an accident resulting from failure. In some cases, improper maintenance may be the fault of the driver—such as if a balding tire blows out and causes a crash. Other times, it’s the fault of the manufacturer—such as if a part is defective and found to cause accidents upon failure. Regardless of who’s at fault, mechanical failures strictly pertain to the vehicle itself and often, the driver has little control over them when they occur.
- Weather: Black ice, whiteout conditions, torrential rain, extreme gusts and more are all prone to causing car accidents. We have little control over the weather, but we can control how we drive during these dangerous conditions. If you’re traveling above the speed limit or driving recklessly and incur an accident, you’re likely going to be held at fault. However, if you’re driving safely and hit a patch of black ice, there may not be much you can do to avoid an accident—in which case, the circumstances may be to blame.
- Confusion: Sometimes, miscommunication is the sole cause of an accident. Two people who turn into each other at a four-way stop may be confused as to who has the right-of-way. Likewise, someone trying to merge to avoid construction may accidentally hit someone else changing lanes. In these cases—often called bang-bang accidents because they occur with little warning—both drivers or neither may be at fault. It depends on the situation and the nature of the misunderstanding or miscommunication.
Any number of these catalysts can determine fault in an accident, and often, it’s a combination of several. Being aware of what causes accidents can help you avoid taking the blame in one by avoiding putting yourself in a situation with these variables present.
Hire a personal injury attorney
If someone else is found to be at fault for an accident, it’s smart to hire a personal injury attorney to help you seek damages. Hospital bills, loss of work abilities and pain and suffering are all major problems to contend with—especially if you’ve been victimized by an accident that wasn’t your fault. A personal injury attorney in Minneapolis, MN can narrow the nature of the accident to the catalysts listed above and help you prove the fault of the other driver, so you can get the damages you’re owed.