Determining Fault in Bellevue Car Accidents

One of the main issues in resolving car accident cases is determining fault. The term “fault” refers to who is found to be responsible for causing the car accident. 

Understanding fault is important because it directly impacts the outcome of insurance claims, legal proceedings, and financial obligations. With some car accidents, assigning fault is fairly straightforward. In other situations, though, determining who caused the collision may be unclear or difficult to prove.

If you have been injured in a Bellevue car accident, understanding how fault is determined is invaluable. There are various factors to consider. At Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, our experienced Bellevue personal injury lawyers can review your case, prove fault, and help you recover full compensation for damages. Contact us today to schedule a free case review. 

What Is “Fault” in a Motor Vehicle Accident?

Fault in a car accident refers to the responsibility or blame assigned to one or more parties involved in a collision. According to a study by the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 94 percent of motor vehicle accidents are caused by driver error

In most car accident cases, liability is based on the theory of negligence. Negligence is the failure to take proper care, resulting in harm to others. 

As an example, Driver A does not notice the traffic light turns red and plows into the intersection, hitting Driver B. Driver A is negligent for failing to obey the traffic signal. However, Driver B could also be partially at fault for speeding, driving while distracted, or disobeying another traffic law. 

Establishing fault involves assessing the actions, decisions, and behaviors of each driver leading up to the accident. 

The Process of Determining Fault 

Every Bellevue car accident case is unique. Fault can vary significantly depending on the specific circumstances of the incident and the local laws where the accident occurred. Most car accidents involve multiple contributing factors, which makes determining fault more complicated. 

The best way to determine fault following a car crash is to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you. Your lawyer will investigate the cause of the accident and gather evidence for you.

1. Police reports

When involved in a collision in Nebraska, you should always call 911 and report the car accident. A law enforcement officer will be sent to the scene. The officer will document his or her findings in a police report. 

The information included in the police report typically includes:

  • The date, time, and location of the incident
  • The names and contact information of the drivers
  • A description of the vehicles involved
  • Statements from all pirates involved and any eyewitnesses
  • Any citations issued for traffic violations

The police officer may also include an assessment of fault in the report. Police reports usually carry significant weight in determining fault. This is because they provide an impartial record of the accident from an official source. 

Your car accident lawyer will review the police report carefully for accuracy and completeness. Any errors or omissions could impact the outcome of your claim. 

2. Gathering evidence

After a car accident, evidence is critical for determining fault. If possible, try to collect as much evidence as possible at the scene of the accident. 

This evidence may include:

  • Photos of property damage, injuries, and road and weather conditions
  • Statements from eyewitnesses
  • Police reports
  • Names, addresses, phone numbers, and license plate numbers of all parties involved

The more evidence you have proving the other driver was at fault, the better chance you may have at recovering fair compensation for your car accident claim. 

3. Witness testimony

There are pros and cons to using witness testimony as evidence. On the one hand, witnesses who saw the incident unfold can provide valuable information, helping to corroborate or challenge the narratives of the parties involved. 

On the other hand, eyewitness testimony may be subject to bias or inaccuracies. Conflicting accounts from different witnesses can complicate the process of determining fault. 

4. Insurance investigations

Each insurance company involved conducts its own independent investigation of the auto accident. 

This may involve:

  • Reviewing statements from all parties involved
  • Analyzing accident reports
  • Assessing property damage
  • Consulting accident reconstructionists and other experts

Insurers will use the information they have collected during their investigations to negotiate settlements or defend their policyholders in court if needed. 

5. State laws and comparative negligence

Most states, like Nebraska, follow a system of comparative negligence. This means that fault is assigned based on each party’s degree of responsibility in the accident. 

Under comparative negligence laws, even if one party is mainly to blame, the other party may still share some liability. States may either follow pure comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence, with variations in how fault affects compensation. 

If you have questions about the negligence laws in Nebraska and how they may affect your car accident claim, don’t hesitate to contact our law firm today. 

6. Insurance company’s determination of fault

Once the insurance company has officially finished investigating the motor vehicle accident, they will make a formal decision of fault. The insurance company may decide that one of the drivers is completely at fault or they may apportion a percentage of fault to each driver. 

It is during this time that the insurance company usually makes their initial compensation offer for damages they believe you are entitled to receive. 

7. Negotiations

You do not have to accept the insurance company’s initial determination of fault. It is important to know that fault can be disputed. If you disagree with the insurer’s decision, you can negotiate with them or present additional evidence to prove your case. 

Often, insurance adjusters will offer a low settlement at first, hoping that you will just take the money. If you feel the offer is unfair, hold firm – or if you’re not sure, speak to a lawyer first. You want to be certain the compensation you receive covers your current losses as well as any future lost wages or medical expenses. 

8. Filing a car accident lawsuit

Most Bellevue, Nebraska, car accident cases are settled through negotiations with the insurance company. However, if a claim cannot be resolved through negotiations, you may choose to take legal action.

This typically involved filing a personal injury lawsuit. If your case goes to trial, your car accident attorney and the defendant will present evidence in court. Based on the evidence presented, a judge and jury will determine fault and award compensation. 

How a Bellevue, NE Car Accident Lawyer Determines Fault

You have the legal right to represent yourself after a car accident in Nebraska. However, in most situations, it is beneficial to hire a car accident lawyer. 

Some people hesitate to hire a personal injury lawyer because they are unsure of how it will help them. Others hesitate to take the step because they are concerned about the cost. 

Consider some of the many benefits of hiring car accident lawyers:

  • Investigation of the accident: After taking on your case, your lawyer will launch a full investigation into the cause of your car crash. Your lawyer will gather the evidence needed to prove fault so that your main focus can be on your recovery – not on your insurance claim. 
  • Knowledge of the law: Car accident lawyers have a deep understanding of the traffic laws and regulations in the area where the accident occurred. They can assess whether any violations contributed to the accident – such as speeding, failing to yield, or running a red light.
  • Consultations with expert witnesses: In complex accident cases, a lawyer may enlist the help of accident reconstructionists or other expert witnesses. These professionals use advanced techniques and simulations to recreate car accidents. They can identify factors such as vehicle speeds and angles of impact to determine fault. 
  • Analyze driver behavior: Assessing the behavior and actions of all drivers involved is essential to determine fault and liability. Driving behaviors that contribute to accidents include distracted driving, drunk driving, and aggressive driving. Lawyers may review phone records, toxicology reports, and other evidence to understand the state of mind and actions of the driver. 
  • Negotiate with insurers: Once obtaining a complete understanding of your case, your car accident lawyer can begin negotiations with the insurance company. Most car accident attorneys are skilled negotiators and won’t back down until their clients get the compensation they deserve. 

Our Bellevue Car Accident Lawyers Are Here to Help

Have you or a loved one been injured in a Bellevue car accident? If so, do not feel you have to accept the insurance company’s initial determination of fault. 

Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. has a legal team with years of experience in determining fault in car accident cases. We know what evidence is needed to build a strong case for our clients. 

Our law firm takes motor vehicle accident cases on contingency, so you do not have to pay any upfront costs or fees. We only get paid if your case is successful and you receive a monetary settlement or award. Call us 24/7 at 402-241-5020, chat with a member of our team, or complete the contact form to schedule a free case review. 

by Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop
Published on

Posted in: Car Accidents