How fault is determined in a car accident

Updated March 26, 2024  |   Published September 18, 2023

When a car accident occurs, typically an insurance company will pay for any damage if the total amount of damages is greater than your deductible. If only one car is involved in an accident, it’s simple to determine the car that is at fault for the accident. If there are two or more cars involved, the process gets more difficult. Read on for useful information about how fault is determined in a car accident.

What is an at-fault car accident?

An at-fault accident only occurs in states that do not require personal injury protection, otherwise known as PIP coverage for vehicles. Massachusetts is one of the states that requires PIP. In the states that do have at-fault accidents, the driver that is responsible for causing the accident will be required to pay for any damages in full. This includes medical costs and property damage. Often, fault is shared between multiple drivers; in these situations both drivers’ insurance companies will be required to pay some percentage of the total cost depending on how much fault is assigned to each driver, but one party will pay the majority because they’re at the most fault.

How do insurance companies determine fault in a car accident?

For most cases, fault is determined using state laws and regulations. The state laws being followed are those of the state in which the accident occurred, not the state of residency for any parties involved. Insurance companies will also review other facts to get full comprehension of the situation before determining fault. These include the weather conditions of the day, any physical evidence, police reports, your own personal notes, and eyewitness statements. Negligent driving, which is driving in an unreasonable way given the circumstances, is also factored in, depending on whether it was present or not.

How to work with your insurance company after an accident

It can often be difficult to prioritize your actions after being in an accident. Which is completely understandable with the stress and duress that you can be under. To make things easier for you, we’ve included a list of actions that you should take to do them.

Report the facts.

Don’t admit fault to your insurance company. Just gather the facts, and report as much evidence as you can to them.

Share the police report.

Work with your agent to obtain the police report, which will also contain important evidence for the insurance agent.

File the claim.

Once you’ve left the scene of the accident and have had a chance to calm down, talk to your insurance agent to begin the claims process.


Will being at fault affect my insurance premiums?

If you are at-fault for an accident, your insurance premiums might not rise right away; in fact, they might not at all. Your insurance company looks are several factors before increasing your rate, including your driving record and any circumstances around the accident. If you have accident forgiveness, your policy might not increase. If your premium does increase, the best thing you can do is to practice safe, defensive driving, and maintain a good driving record so that your rates eventually go  back down. Mistakes happen, and what matters most is to not be too hard on yourself. You can always pick yourself back up and start improving your driving record.


If you still have questions about filing a claim, visit “How to File an Insurance Claim on Your Car”.

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