If you’ve been caught up in a motor vehicle accident, the question of who was at fault has probably crossed your mind. If you have sustained an injury, the answer to this question can be crucial. If one of the drivers was negligent and this caused your injury, you may have a claim for compensation. 

This article looks at the concept of fault in motor vehicle accidents and shows that determining the parties’ fault may be a complex task. However, with an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side, you may claim compensation after an accident to help you recover from the impacts of the injury on your life.

Why determining fault is important 

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident because of someone else’s negligent conduct, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from them. On the other hand, if you caused the accident, you won’t have a claim (although accident benefits are likely to be available under your auto insurance policy regardless of fault).

Insurance companies (and courts) make fault determinations to decide who is responsible for compensating those injured in accidents. For example, if the other driver’s insurance company agrees that their policyholder was at fault for causing your injury, they may try to settle the case by offering you compensation. 

Sometimes it is obvious who is at fault for causing a motor vehicle accident. For example, the other car is probably at fault if you have been hit from behind. Other times, determining fault is a complex and disputed process. 

Both parties to the accident may bear some responsibility

One reason for the complexity is that both parties may be partially at fault. 

There is a legal concept known as contributory negligence. This means that if someone else’s negligence injures a person but has also contributed to causing the accident that led to their injuries, the amount of compensation available will be reduced in proportion to their own degree of fault.

Insurance companies can also determine that an injured driver is partially at fault for causing the accident.

Breaking traffic rules has a bearing on determining fault

Some rules affect how fault is determined. For example, if someone does not comply with the rules of the road and an injury is the result, the non-compliant driver needs to prove that they did not cause the injury to escape liability.

This is a reversal of the normal burden of proof rule (that is, the injured person needs to prove that the other driver negligently caused their injury) due to section 185 of the Alberta Traffic Safety Act

This section provides that if a person is injured due to the operation of a motor vehicle on a highway that was operated by a person that failed to comply with the Traffic Safety Act, then the onus of proof switches to the defendant driver to prove that the injury did not arise because of their failure to comply.

Cuming & Gillespie LLP represented an injured client that appeared to be at fault for the accident

Sometimes determining fault after a motor vehicle accident is more complex than it appears.

Cuming & Gillespie LLP recently represented a person that was injured after their vehicle was T-boned by another vehicle. This client was operating a vehicle at a highway intersection. He was on the crossroad, and a stop sign controlled his travel direction, while the highway was uncontrolled and had the right of way. 

Our client entered the highway, and the driver’s side of their vehicle was T-boned by another vehicle. This evidence suggested that our client was totally at fault for the collision because he collided with another vehicle while taking a turn.

We secured compensation for our client by arguing the other driver should have avoided a collision

However, damage reports and accident reconstruction showed that the other driver likely travelled 15-20 km/hr over the speed limit. Through questioning evidence, we alleged that the other driver was not paying adequate attention while driving for at least a brief period. We argued that the collision could have been prevented if the other driver had properly paid attention or driven the speed limit.

Despite our client carrying the bulk of the liability for proceeding through the stop sign, given the magnitude of his injuries and the liability risk on the other driver, we settled at mediation near the other driver’s insurance policy limit. 

Therefore, a trial was avoided. If the case had gone to trial, our client would have had the risk of being found fully at fault and getting no compensation.

A personal injury lawyer can guide you on whether settlement may be beneficial for you

As this example shows, in some circumstances, reaching a settlement with the other side’s insurance company will be an effective tool for obtaining compensation. 

In some cases, there may be a significant risk in proceeding to trial. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help clients build strong cases to ensure they are in the best possible position for a successful settlement. They can also help weigh and advise on settlement offers from the insurance company along the way. 

Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP for Advice on Motor Vehicle Accident Claims 

Just because an insurance company tells you, you are at fault for a motor vehicle accident that caused you injury doesn’t necessarily mean it is true. The personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP in Calgary are here to help you strategically position yourself for maximum compensation. We have a proven track record of obtaining client compensation and helping you avoid pitfalls, including when negotiating with an insurance company. Call us at 403-571-0555 or contact us online to book an appointment for a free consultation to discuss the circumstances of your case.