Determining Fault When Two Negligent Drivers Cause an Accident
If you are in a car accident, you have to prove that another party was responsible to some degree for causing the collision before you can collect compensation for your damages and injuries. All motorists have a duty to anyone else on the roadway to use reasonable care, to use caution when driving, and to maintain a proper lookout for hazards. When two drivers appear to have violated a traffic law or were otherwise driving negligently and collide or cause an accident, how do you determine fault?
There are two scenarios regarding this issue. One has to do if you were struck and injured by two separate vehicles. The other is if you and another driver were both negligent and you were injured.
Examples of Negligent Driving
Driving negligently includes the following examples:
- Speeding – CVC 22350
- Making an unsafe lane change — CVC 21658(a)
- Failing to stop at a red light or stop sign
- Striking a pedestrian in a crosswalk — CVC 21950
- Driving on the wrong side of the road — CVC 21650
People drive in this manner for any number of reasons such as:
- Impairment due to alcohol or drugs
- Distraction from use of a cell phone or reading
- Falling asleep at the wheel from fatigue or physical disorder
- Mistaking the gas pedal for the brake
- Rushing to an appointment or event
- A faulty steering or braking system
- Other equipment violation
- Bad weather conditions
Scenario 1: Two Vehicles Cause Your Injuries
This circumstance usually involves a multi-vehicle, rear-end accident. Foggy, heavy traffic, or low-visibility situations on the highway can result in cars piling and causing rear-end accident “chains”. Obviously, the first car that rear-ended you is liable but the issue becomes more unclear or complex as to which vehicle caused your injuries. The first impact may have been minor but the second much more violent, pushing the first car into yours again. It may take an expert in crash analysis to determine which vehicle caused the most damage, or at least your own testimony regarding the forces you felt.
In this case, the insurers for the two vehicles will usually apportion the damages. The issue is a little easier if there was some time between impacts and you did not experience pain or other symptoms until the second, more violent collision. In any case, you should contact an attorney to help you deal with the complexities of accidents involving multiple vehicles.
Scenario 2: You and the Other Motorist were Negligent
If both you and another motorist were negligent on the road and you suffered injuries, you can still recover damages and compensation as long as you can prove another party had some degree of causal responsibility.
Evidence of fault is determined by a number of methods:
- Neutral witness corroboration
- Photo from red light camera
- Surveillance video from business adjoining an intersection or roadway
- Chemical test of driver indicating drug use or blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) of at least 0.08%
- Skid marks on roadway to determine speed
- Location of vehicles in roadway
- Location of property damage on the vehicles
- Statements of both drivers and consistency with other evidence
- Cell phone information to determine if it was in use
Evidence like this can help an expert or an insurer determine where a vehicle was located when struck, the speeds of each car, or if someone was driving distracted or impaired. You will need an experienced auto accident attorney in these cases to sort out the issues and advocate for your interests as the other driver’s insurer will try to minimize their insured’s negligence.
California is also a pure comparative negligence state, your own negligence does not disqualify you from being compensated. It will only reduce your compensation by your own degree of fault. For instance, if you were speeding but slammed on your brakes just after entering an intersection but another car simply failed to stop at all and collided with you, then both of you are at fault though you may only be 25% at fault. Your degree of fault may be at least 50%, but you may still recover some compensation from the other driver. Even if the other driver was only 1% at fault, you can still be awarded 1% of your damages.
Proving and apportioning fault for the accident and for your injuries usually involves an investigation of the scene, finding witnesses and getting their statements, having someone examine the damage or canvassing the area to see if surveillance cameras captured the accident.
Retain Car Accident Lawyer Andrew Ritholz
Andrew Ritholz is an experienced Pasadena car accident attorney who has handled numerous cases where more than one driver was at fault for causing an accident, and where his own client was proportionately at fault but managed to obtain compensation nonetheless. In situations like these, handling your own case can cost you thousands of dollars that you might otherwise have obtained. Call his office today for a free evaluation of your injury claim.