How Is Fault Determined In An Auto Accident?

The laws governing negligence and personal injury in the state of Florida are extensive and complicated, but they are based on one commonsense presumption – that someone who is responsible for an accident should also be accountable for the costs.

Thus, when handling any personal injury claim arising from a traffic crash, the key legal issue for a West Palm Beach car accident attorney is determining which driver was responsible for the collision.

Under Florida law, when a motorist’s negligence causes a personal injury, the injury victim is entitled to full compensation for all collision-related damages. But being “entitled” doesn’t mean that money will just appear in a victim’s bank account or mailbox.

The victim or “plaintiff” in a personal injury case has to prove that the “defendant” – the driver accused of being at fault – was in fact at fault and driving negligently.

A plaintiff also must prove that a defendant’s negligence was the direct cause of the injury or injuries. For example, it’s harder to prove that a driver’s negligence caused a back injury if you have a previous back injury or a history of back trouble.

Lastly, with the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney, a plaintiff must present evidence of the extent of the injury or injuries and must provide the paperwork for medical expenses, lost earnings and lost earnings capacity, and all other accident-related expenses and losses.


If you are injured in Florida by another motorist’s negligence, you will need evidence – meaning documentation – if your personal injury claim is going to be successful. Of course, a car accident attorney can help, but before you can speak with an attorney – from the moment an accident happens – you’ll need to start compiling evidence.

Of course, you’ll want to consult an attorney as soon as possible after an injury, but before you can do that, here are three helpful, commonsense recommendations for what you must do immediately at the scene of an accident:

  • Take as many photographs as you can: In personal injury cases involving traffic accidents, pictures can be persuasive evidence. You simply cannot take too many photographs of the vehicle damage, the license plates, and the general location of the accident. Have someone take photographs for you if you can’t due to your injuries, and don’t forget to take photos of your own injuries that are visible.
  • Get a copy of the police accident report: Call the police at once about any traffic collision with injuries. Ask the officers how you can acquire a copy of the report. Make several copies as soon as you obtain it. An accident report may or may not be helpful in proving your claim, but you won’t know until you have it and read it. Any suggestion or confirmation that the defendant was driving negligently or illegally could substantially bolster your personal injury claim.
  • Get help from eyewitnesses: The testimony or statements of eyewitnesses – particularly people who don’t even know you – can make the case. Try if you can to speak with any eyewitnesses – or as many as possible – and obtain their names, telephone numbers, and if possible their street addresses, email addresses, place of work – anything that can help you or your lawyer reach that person about making a statement or offering testimony.

Before you file a personal injury claim after a traffic injury, make sure that you will have complete medical documentation of exactly how – and how badly – you were injured.

Your medical records will be needed as evidence, so seek treatment right away after a collision, even if you don’t really feel any immediate pain or injury.

Many of the injuries sustained in traffic crashes are not necessarily immediately apparent, and if you need to file a claim later, a defendant’s lawyers could allege that you weren’t really hurt that badly – or at all.


A skilled personal injury lawyer will launch a comprehensive investigation into the crash, and if it’s needed, will obtain help from medical experts, accident reconstruction specialists, and other experts as necessary.

Every detail and facet of a traffic accident will be closely studied and scrutinized to establish which driver was at fault.

Upon determining who was negligent, a personal injury attorney can then work on a legal strategy to obtain the maximum possible compensation for an accident victim.

In some traffic accidents, the final determination is that neither motorist was at fault. Still, accident victims need justice, especially when their injuries are disabling or permanent.

Millions of vehicles are recalled every year for defective parts, for example, so if a defective vehicle or vehicle part was the real culprit in an accident, your attorney may advise you to consider a product liability claim against the part’s or the vehicle’s manufacturer.


The law regarding personal injury cases arising from traffic accidents makes some presumptions that all Florida drivers should know about and understand.

Rear-end collisions, for example, are almost always considered the fault of the driver of the vehicle in the rear – even if the vehicle in front was stopped illegally or improperly.

The law presumes that every motorist must be able to stop safely – in virtually all driving scenarios – and that motorists who do not stop safely are most likely negligent.

Similarly, a motorist making a left turn is almost always presumed to be at fault for a collision with a motorist who is proceeding straight through the intersection.

Unless the motorist proceeding through the intersection was in violation of the traffic laws (for example, running a red light or speeding), the motorist who was negotiating the turn will almost always be presumed at fault.

If you are injured in any South Florida traffic accident, never admit fault, never confess anything, never sign anything, and don’t even speak with an insurance company until you’ve met with an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney.

Quite often, auto insurance companies offer an injury victim an amount far less than the real worth of the injury claim. Do not agree to that kind of settlement.

If you are injured in South Florida traffic by a negligent motorist, let a good personal injury attorney prove who was negligent, protect your rights, and advocate for justice on your behalf.