Who decides who is at fault in an accident?

Insurance Adjusters will make the first decisions of who caused the car accident

After an auto accident, insurance companies will assign accident investigators known as insurance adjusters to decide who the company believes was at fault. Adjusters usually take statements from all the drivers and any available witnesses. They may look at photos, or documents like traffic signal reports to reconstruct the accident.

Sometimes the adjuster believes the company’s insured driver is not at fault and denies the claim. If the insurance adjuster decides the company’s insured driver did cause the accident, the adjuster may offer money to anyone else injured in the accident.

This is known as the settlement offer, because accepting the money settles the case. People who accept the money sign an agreement that prevents them from ever bringing a lawsuit for that same accident.

At this point, the injured person has three options:

  • Accept the money and settle / drop the matter
  • Negotiate (ask for more money)
  • File a lawsuit for to recover money for injuries and property damage

Negotiating can be difficult without an Texas car accident attorney. For insurance companies, it is a business decision. Smaller settlements mean higher profits. They also have legal teams that will use your statements and wiggle room in the law to deny coverage, or say the injured driver was partly at fault.

An experienced Texas personal injury attorney explains to the insurance adjuster how the facts and law show the insurance company’s driver was at fault. The attorney can prove the injuries with expert testimony. Lawsuits can be long and expensive, and the insurance company may reconsider the offer. Otherwise, a lawsuit can be filed in court.

A Judge or Jury Decides Who was at Fault in an Auto Accident

For an Texas auto accident, a lawsuit will usually be filed in a Texas state court. Most Texas car collisions are controlled by Texas state traffic and liability law. Texas court rules of evidence and procedure also apply.

There are two stages of a deciding a lawsuit:

A Factfinder (Judge or Jury) Decides the Facts

In most lawsuits, the people suing (plaintiffs) and the people being sued (defendants) disagree about the facts of the case. An injured driver might say the light was red, while the other driver insists the light was green.

So the first stage in determining who was at fault in an auto accident lawsuit is to examine the evidence presented by each side. Evidence might include:

  • Witnesses (including the drivers) statements and testimony
  • Expert testimony
  • Photographs of the accident
  • Surveillance or Dashcam Video
  • Transportation records (highway conditions, traffic light meters)

A factfinder can be a judge or a jury. Under the US Constitution, in most cases people are legally entitled to have a jury decide their case.

The factfinder examines all the evidence and makes a decision of what happened in the case. For example, the jury may say the plaintiff was not speeding, and the defendant drove through a red light and collided with the plaintiff’s car.

The Judge or Jury Applies the Facts to the Law

Once the facts are decided, the next stage of determining fault in an Texas car accident is to apply the facts to Texas state traffic and liability law.

For example, Texas state law says that driving faster than the posted speed limit usually means the speeding driver is being careless and unsafe. That might mean that under a liability legal theory known as negligence, the speeding driver caused the accident.

Partial Fault in Texas Auto Accident Liability Law

Deciding a lawsuit for an Texas car accident can be tricky, because in Texas, even if you were partly at fault for an accident, you can still receive money from the driver that was more responsible. This is known as modified comparative negligence, and as long as you were less than 50% at fault for the accident, you can recover some money for your injuries and property damage.

For example, if you were driving ten miles over the speed limit, but the other driver was driving in the wrong direction, you may be 10% responsible because you might have slowed down in time. But the other driver is mostly responsible, and will probably have to pay for most of your damages.

This decision is made by the judge or jury in the lawsuit.