Insurance companies generally determine fault by a combination of methods. First, and most importantly, they review the police report of the accident, if there is one. There is nearly always a determination of fault by the investigating officer, as well as narrative description of the accident and the physical evidence, often including pictures.
If there are third party witnesses to the accident, they will also usually be named and quoted in the report. The insurance adjustor will consider those statements as well.
In addition, the insurance company will take direct statements from the drivers. These are nearly always recorded and taken as soon after the accident as possible. The insurance company is not required to accept law enforcement’s determination of fault, and can consider all of the statements as well.
If any party was issued a traffic citation (for instance, for excessive speed, for running a red light, or for unsafe movements) this will be considered as well. Taking all these factors into consideration, the insurance will issue a finding of fault, which can range for being 100% one party’s fault, to being a 50-50 even split of the fault.
It is important to note that insurance companies will not hire an accident reconstructionist and will often not track down third party witnesses that are not easily available unless a lawsuit is filed. For this reason, determination of fault in complicated cases can often be wrong simply because a thorough investigation and analysis has not been done.
When you hire an attorney to take your car accident case, the attorney should hire the experts needed to put together the complete investigation, including an investigator to get statements from witnesses and experts in various parts of the investigation of a crash.
DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.
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