Who Determines Who Is Responsible For An Accident?
In some automobile accidents, it is pretty clear who is at fault. In other cases, it is difficult to determine the fault, especially when there are conflicting testimonies of the parties involved.
In these situations, both a police officer that responds to the scene of the accident and insurance adjusters can make a determination of who is at fault, or if both drivers have comparative liability. In particular, while one person may have been the chief contributor to the cause of the accident, the accident may have been avoided if the other person had not been otherwise distracted or negligent as well.
For example, if another vehicle rear ends you at a red light and you sustain injuries due to not wearing a seat belt, you may be determined to be partially at fault for your injuries since you were not wearing a safety restraint, even though in the State of Florida you are presumed to be 100% at fault if you rear end another vehicle.
The initial determination of fault is usually done by law enforcement at the scene of the accident primarily for the purpose of ticketing for traffic violations. A police officer will usually make this determination based on the accident scene and available traffic control devices, the location of the vehicles and property damage, involved parties and witnesses testimonies.
Once a claim has been reported to the insurance company liability claims adjuster will decide fault. The police and the insurance adjusters do not always agree on fault. Moreover, in Florida, police reports are not admissible in court, nor are any statements made by any parties to the investigating police officer or the issuance of traffic citations. This law was established to give each party a fair opportunity to argue their case in front of the jury based on the facts rather than the responding officer's opinion of fault, who in most cases did not witness the accident.
Joe Horrox has handled several thousand accident cases over the past 25 years of his practice. Do not simply assume that if you did not receive a citation at the time of the accident, you will prevail in your personal injury case, or if you received a citation, you were 100% at fault. Contact our law firm now for a free, no obligation consultation.