Car Accidents: Determining Fault by Location of Damage

April 18th, 2024 | by RON BELL

Car Accidents: Determining Fault by Location of Damage

What if you or a loved one was struck by car in a T-Bone collision and in no way was it you or your loved one’s fault? What if the at-fault driver’s insurance deny responsibility for the accident? Then what? Sometimes, the location of damage on your vehicle can be used to help determine fault.

Understanding Fault in Car Accidents

To give you an example of determining fault by location of damage, let’s say you were driving through a neighborhood while following the speed limit. Suddenly, a car backs out of a driveway and broadsides you, smashing into your passenger side door. This type of damage clearly shows that the driver of the other vehicle didn’t see you and hit you. The evidence will prove that even if the other drivers insurance company is refuting the claim.

But what if the other driver made it unavoidable to hit them? If they pulled out in front of you and you T-bone them, then the evidence available (unless there is surveillance footage) is much more difficult to prove. This is where nine times out of 10 the at-fault driver’s insurance company will deny fault.

Factors Considered in Determining Fault

Typically, determining car accident fault involves examining several factors to get a complete picture. It’s a process of piecing together information to understand the accident’s circumstances thoroughly, and location of vehicle damage is just one. Other types of evidence may include:

  • Police reports and eyewitness testimonies
  • Medical records
  • Cell phone records
  • New Mexico traffic laws and regulations
  • Analysis of physical evidence
  • Examination of road conditions and weather at the time of the accident

Assessing Fault Based on Car Accident Damage Location

Proving fault by location of damage is a major aspect of determining liability and assigning responsibility in the aftermath of a car crash. Different types of vehicle damage, such as front-end, rear-end, and side-impact damage, provide important clues about the sequence of events leading to the accident and the actions of each driver involved. While certain scenarios may clearly indicate fault (such as rear-end collisions typically being the fault of the following driver) others may require careful analysis of factors like traffic laws, road conditions, and driver behavior. Also keep in mind that some scenarios listed below may overlap or be a factor in more than one type of collision.

Front-end damage scenarios

Failure to Yield: Front-end collisions can occur when a driver fails to yield, such as at intersections or when merging onto a roadway.

Head-On Collisions: In cases of a head-on collision, fault may be assigned to the driver who crossed the centerline or otherwise entered the opposing lane of traffic, causing the collision.

Failure to Yield Right of Way: Drivers who fail to yield to oncoming traffic, pedestrians, or vehicles with the right of way at intersections or merge points can cause front-end collisions by entering the path of other vehicles.

Sudden Stops: If a vehicle abruptly stops or slows down without warning, such as for a pedestrian or obstacle in the roadway, and is rear-ended by another vehicle, fault may lie with the driver who failed to maintain a safe following distance or was unable to stop in time.

Failure to Maintain a Safe Following Distance: Drivers who follow other vehicles too closely may not have enough time to react if the vehicle in front suddenly stops or slows down.

Distracted Driving: Distracted driving in Albuquerque such as texting, talking on the phone, eating, or adjusting the radio can divert the driver’s attention from the road, increasing the likelihood of failing to notice stopped or slowing traffic ahead.

Running Red Lights or Stop Signs: Drivers who fail to obey traffic signals and signs risk colliding with vehicles traveling through intersections, often resulting in front-end collisions.

Speeding: Driving at excessive speeds reduces the driver’s ability to react to changing road conditions or unexpected events, increasing the severity of front-end collisions if the driver is unable to stop in time.

Poor Weather Conditions: Adverse weather conditions such as rain, snow, ice, or fog can reduce visibility and traction, making it difficult for drivers to stop or maneuver their vehicles safely.

Rear-end damage scenarios

Tailgating: A driver who follows another vehicle too closely and fails to maintain a safe stopping distance may be at fault of a rear-end collision if they collide with the vehicle in front, as they did not leave enough space to stop in time.

Distracted Driving: If a driver is distracted by activities such as texting, talking on the phone, or adjusting the radio, they may not notice when the vehicle in front slows down or stops.

Sudden Stops: In situations where the vehicle in front comes to a sudden stop due to traffic congestion, an obstacle in the road, or another emergency, the driver behind may be at fault if they are unable to stop in time and collide with the vehicle ahead.

Failure to Brake in Time: If a driver fails to brake promptly or adequately leave enough stopping distance in response to changing road conditions or traffic signals, they may be considered at fault.

Poor Weather Conditions: Reduced visibility, slippery roads, and poor traction caused by rain, snow, ice, or fog can make it challenging for drivers to maintain a safe distance and react promptly to changes in traffic flow.

Driver Fatigue: Drowsy or tired drivers have slower reaction times and impaired judgment, increasing the risk of a rear-end car crash, especially during long trips or late-night driving.

Vehicle Malfunction: In some cases, a rear-end collision may occur due to a mechanical failure or malfunction in the braking system of the following vehicle, for which the driver may still be held responsible for failing to maintain their vehicle properly.

Even in a minor car accident, damage can be documented and can demonstrate who was at fault.

Side impact damage scenarios

Running Red Lights or Stop Signs: Drivers who disregard traffic signals or fail to yield at intersections risk colliding with vehicles traveling through the intersection perpendicular to them.

Failure to Yield Right of Way: A sideswipe collision can occur when drivers fail to yield to oncoming traffic or pedestrians while making left turns at intersections or when merging into traffic from side streets or driveways.

Unsafe Lane Changes: Side-impact collisions may happen when a driver fails to check their blind spots or signal properly before changing lanes, leading to a collision with a vehicle traveling in the adjacent lane.

Reckless Driving: Speeding, aggressive driving, or erratic maneuvers such as weaving in and out of traffic can often involve sudden lane changes or failure to yield to other vehicles.

Parking Lot Accidents: Accidents can occur in parking lots when drivers pull out of parking spaces without adequately checking for oncoming traffic or fail to yield to vehicles traveling through the parking lanes.

Intersection Misjudgments: Drivers misjudging the speed or distance of oncoming vehicles while attempting to cross or turn at intersections.

Poor Weather Conditions: Reduced visibility, slippery roads, or other adverse weather conditions can contribute to side-impact collisions if drivers fail to adjust their driving behavior accordingly, such as by slowing down or yielding appropriately.

Other types of damage scenarios

In addition to front-end, rear-end, and side-impact damage, other types of vehicle damage commonly observed in car accidents include:

Roof Damage: Roof damage can occur in rollover accidents or collisions where the vehicle sustains significant force from above, such as being crushed by another vehicle or striking a stationary object like a tree or pole.

Undercarriage Damage: Damage to the undercarriage of a vehicle often occurs in collisions involving high impact or collisions with objects on the road surface, such as debris, potholes, or curbs. This type of damage can affect the vehicle’s suspension, exhaust system, or other components located underneath the car.

Spin-Out Damage: Spin-out accidents, where a vehicle loses traction and spins out of control, can result in damage to various parts of the vehicle, including the front, rear, or sides, depending on the direction of the spin and the objects involved in the collision.

Multi-Vehicle Pileups: In multi-vehicle pileups, cars may sustain damage from multiple impacts, including front, rear, and side collisions, as well as secondary impacts from subsequent vehicles joining the collision. This can result in extensive damage to multiple areas of the vehicles involved.

Frame Damage: Structural damage to the frame of the vehicle can occur in high-speed collisions or accidents involving significant force. Structural damage can affect the overall safety and integrity of the vehicle and may require extensive repairs or replacement.

Steps to Take After a Car Accident

Evidence can only help your case. While not everyone has the presence of mind after a car accident to collect evidence, there are three things to always remember to do at the accident scene.

  1. Get the names of witnesses: If there were any witnesses at the scene of the accident, you should attempt to get their names and addresses and cell phone numbers. Sometimes, a car accident can be your word versus the other driver’s word, so witnesses are a vital aspect of any car accident case.
  2. Take pictures before leaving the scene: It’s easier than ever to take photos of the scene of the accident, thanks to cell phone cameras. The important thing to remember is to take as many photos from as many angles as possible.
  3. Call the police: When the police arrive on the scene, they can take measurements of skid marks, interview witnesses and officially document statements from the other driver for the police report. If you are in a neighborhood and there aren’t any witnesses, the next best thing is to have an officer on scene as quickly as possible.

Additional reading: What to do after a car accident in Albuquerque, NM

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you tell who sideswiped who by damage?

An accident reconstructionist may need to exam the scratches, dents, and paint transfer on the vehicles involved. Typically, the vehicle that caused the damage will have paint marks or scratches that match the color of the other vehicle, indicating contact between them. Also, the severity and angle of the damage can provide clues about the direction of impact, helping to establish fault in the collision.

How do you know who is wrong in a car accident?

Determining car accident fault involves evaluating factors such as traffic laws, road conditions, witness statements, and the actions of each driver involved. Insurance companies and legal authorities assess these details to determine liability. Common indicators of fault include violating traffic signals, failure to yield, reckless driving, and other negligent behaviors. Ultimately, the responsible party is typically the one whose actions directly led to the accident.

Who is at fault in a side impact collision?

It really depends on the specific circumstances of the accident. Generally, the driver who failed to yield the right of way, ran a red light or stop sign, made an illegal turn, or engaged in some other form of negligent driving that directly led to the collision is typically considered at fault. However, a thorough investigation taking into account factors such as traffic laws, road conditions, and witness statements is necessary to accurately assign liability in each case.

Can paint transfer determine fault?

Yes. When vehicles collide, paint from one vehicle may transfer onto the other, leaving behind evidence of contact. By analyzing the color and location of the paint transfer, accident reconstruction experts can often ascertain which vehicle initiated the collision. However, paint transfer alone may not always provide conclusive evidence. Other factors such as witness statements and the circumstances of the accident are also considered in determining liability.

How an Albuquerque Car Accident Attorney Can Help

When it comes to proving who is at fault in a car accident and you have to fight the other driver’s insurance company, you should contact an experienced Albuquerque car accident lawyer. A car accident attorney can help prove negligence and help in a variety of ways, including:

  • Providing legal advice and guidance
  • Conducting a thorough investigation of the accident and location of the damage sustained
  • Gathering evidence such as police reports and witness testimony
  • Negotiating with insurance companies for fair compensation
  • Working with accident reconstruction experts to analyze the details of the accident scene
  • Representing you in court proceedings if necessary
  • Handling all documentation and paperwork related to the case

Contact Ron Bell Injury Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation

It can be difficult to prove who is a fault in some cases, but our experienced Albuquerque personal injury lawyers can help. We’ll fight the insurance company on your behalf to get the money you deserve. Our legal team works on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t pay if we don’t get you compensation. Remember, you don’t have to assess the location of the damage or face the aftermath of a car accident alone.

Call our legal team now for a free consultation


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