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Understanding Some Of The Considerations That May Determine Fault After An Auto Accident

If you have been in a car accident, then you may feel that the other driver was absolutely at fault for the incident that occurred. If you feel this way, then you may think that you are entitled to compensation for injuries, vehicle damages, and pain and suffering. However, determining fault is a complicated process where many different things are taken into consideration. Keep reading to learn about some of these things, because you may not be as completely innocent as you think.

Common Law

Common law is the part of the legal system that relies heavily on precedent. This means that previous legal decisions and court proceedings will indicate whether something is considered lawful or not. Fault is a common law legal term that helps to determine who was to blame during an accident. There are several things that are looked at under common law when it comes to accidents. Recklessness, negligence, intentional actions, and strict liability are considered. Strict liability rarely comes into play, unless the incident involved a commercial driver who was carrying hazardous, explosive, or dangerous products. If the driver was carrying these things, then he or she would likely be deemed responsible for the accident regardless of actual wrong-doing.

Typically, recklessness, negligence, and intentional actions will be considered when determining fault. Recklessness may occur if you did something before or during the accident that may have put someone else in danger. For example, if you noticed oncoming traffic but ran a red light anyway and got into an accident at the intersection, then your reckless driving behavior may indicate that you are partially at fault for the accident. Negligent behavior is similar to recklessness. However, negligence refers to a reduced level of care while driving, not an intentional and dangerous act. You may be seen as negligent if you sped through a yellow light or failed to stop completely at a stop sign before or during the accident. 

An intentional act is anything that you may have done that you should have known would cause an accident. For example, if you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then you acted intentionally and you would likely be at fault for the accident. Intentional acts are also considered reckless acts.


Common law helps to provide a general idea of how fault may be assigned after an automobile accident. However, statutes may also be utilized to determine fault. A statute is a codified law that indicates that a specific law has been broken, and this is used to show negligence after an accident occurred. Once you have been found to have broken a statute, then you will need to provide proof that your negligence did not contribute or cause the accident. 

For example, if you ran a red light, then you violated a specific statute. In Alabama, you would have failed to obey a traffic control device under AL Code 32-5A-31, and in Missouri you would have failed to obey a traffic control device under statute MRS 304.271. Other states have similar statutes that indicate that you broke the law. If you violated the specific law or statute and you came speeding into another intersection where a car did not stop fully at a stop sign, then you are partially negligent for the incident. Specifically, If you did not run the red light, then you would likely not have been in the intersection when the other car drove through. This means that the accident probably would not have happened if you acted lawfully. This means that you are partially to blame for the accident. 

Fault is an incredibly confusing thing to determine after an automobile accident, even if it appears that the incident was clearly caused by one individual. This is why it is best to seek advice from an auto accident attorney before proceeding with a lawsuit.