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Car Wrecks and Negligence

 How to determine who is at fault

After you have covered the immediate steps on What to do after a vehicle accident, you will need to consider seeking compensation for injuries received to you and others in the car, as well as damage to your vehicle.You may have to consider suing after your car wreck to gain this compensation. At the very least you will have to file a claim with your insurance provider. A key part of receiving compensation will be determining who is at fault in the traffic accident.This generally means figuring out who was negligent (and therefore liable for damages).

Often times it can be clear which party was negligent but it is helpful to know what rules or laws the individual violated. You can reinforce your argument to an insurance company (or judge)  that someone else was at fault for an accident if you can present documentation and support for your claim. These sources could help your argument.

Police Reports

In most car accident cases, the police will be called to the scene (especially if someone was injured). The officer at the scene of the incident will most likely make a written accident report.The report may indicate the officers belief that one person violated a traffic law and caused the accident. There may even be a citation issued for that violation. This information can be a good source of evidence demonstrating that the other person was at fault.

Be sure to obtain a copy of the accident report. There will be different methods of obtaining a copy of a crash report depending on which agency investigated the crash. (Tennessee Highway Patrol, County Sheriff’s office, or the city police department). You can check with the traffic division of the police department about getting a copy of the report. Additional information to help you obtain an accident report in Tennessee can be found at

State Traffic Laws

When building evidence for your claim that another driver was at fault for the car wreck, you should look at the state laws pertaining to driving.These statutes may show that a law was broken and can contribute to your argument.

Search for listings that may apply to your accident.These could include: failure to yield,speed limits,or texting while driving a vehicle. You can check with your local Driver Service Center (Driver License Manuals)for information, as well as many public libraries.

Some additional places that may help your research are:


If you find information that could apply to your wreck, be sure to copy down the information exactly as it appears as well as the statute number. This way you can reference the law when making your claim with the insurance company or talking with your legal representative.

“No-Doubt” Liability

There are a couple of specific accident types where the other driver is usually at fault, and a lot of the time insurance companies will not bother to dispute the claim.Your argument may be easier to prove if you are involved in one of these.

Rear-End Collisions

When someone hits you from behind, it is very rarely your fault, no matter the reason why you stopped. As a general rule of driving, a vehicle is required to be able to stop safely if traffic is stopped in front of them. This can be accomplished by:

  • not following too close behind another vehicle
  • obeying the speed limit
  • always paying attention to the road

If the driver is unable to stop safely then they are not being as careful as the driver in front of them.

It is generally easy to prove a rear-end claim because the vehicle damage shows what happened during the accident.If car “A” ‘s front end is damaged and car “B” ‘s rear end is damaged then it is fairly clear which car struck the other.

There are times when the driver of the vehicle that hit you from behind may have a claim against someone else that caused you to suddenly stop, or perhaps a third car that caused their car to hit your vehicle. However, the responsibility of damages to yourself and damage to your car remain with the person that rear-ended you.

It is important to know that even if you have been rear-ended there are some instances where your own actions could reduce the compensation you receive due to the rule of “comparative negligence”, which is, “a rule of law applied in accident cases to determine responsibility and damages based on the negligence of every party directly involved in the accident”. For example if  you have a tail or brake light out ,or if you had mechanical issues with your vehicle but did not attempt to move the vehicle off the roadway.

Left-Turn Accidents

Accidents in which a car making a left-turn hits a car going straight in the other direction is another instance in which fault is generally easy to determine. The car making a left turn is almost always liable for the collision under these conditions. The location of vehicle damage often makes it hard for the driver to argue that the accident occurred differently than during a left turn.Remember that a basic driving rule is: cars making left turns are required to wait until they can complete the turn safely before making the turn in front of oncoming traffic.

There are however, a few  rare circumstances where this is not the case. These exceptions are not easy to prove but could affect the assignment of fault. Some instances to consider are: The car going straight ran a red light, the car going straight was driving excessively over the legal speed limit, or in very rare cases, the car turning left started turning when it was safe to do so but an unexpected circumstances caused the driver to decrease their speed or stop entirely.


Be sure to check out this additional information on car accidents , personal injury,and Tennessee Driving Laws

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