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Car Accident Scenarios: Who’s At Fault?

Pennsylvania drivers should be aware that in a car accident, fault for causing the accident is apportioned among the drivers involved. This means your damages, including lost wages and medical expenses, are reduced if you are partially at fault.

The Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Cousin Benny explain how comparative fault works in eight common car accident scenarios. Find out who’s usually at fault.

If you were in a car accident in the Philadelphia area, call Cousin Benny for help. We thoroughly investigate and ensure that you are not assigned more fault than you deserve, and we consult with our experts to assess your injuries and their impact on your present and future. Call us to find out how much your case is worth.

1. Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end collisions, from minor fender-benders to multiple car accidents, are the most common type of car accident. They are commonly caused by tailgating, distracted driving, and speeding. 

You would think that the driver of the car doing the rear-ending is naturally at fault, however, there are scenarios where that driver may be partially at fault or not at fault. For example, if the car in front fails to use a turn signal and slows down to turn, the driver of that car is partially at fault for causing the accident, unless the turn signal malfunctioned. Then the car dealership and the manufacturer may be at fault.

If a car suddenly pulls out in front of you and you hit it, you likely share fault with the other driver, who should have yielded the right of way to you. If a car slams on the brakes and you rear end it, you may share fault – more so if the brake lights were inoperable. 

2. Head-On Collisions

“Head-on” or “frontal impact” collisions are by far the most fatal. They occur when a driver leaves their lane and enters the lane of oncoming traffic, when a driver turns the wrong way down a one way street or on/off ramp, or when a driver’s car is struck by another car, spun around, and pushed into oncoming traffic.

The driver leaving their lane or deciding to drive the wrong way into oncoming traffic generally is at fault for causing the accident, however, there are exceptions. If your car is pushed into oncoming traffic by another driver’s negligent driving and a head-on collision occurs, you may not be at fault unless you could have taken some defensive action to avoid or ameliorate the accident.

3. Left-Turn Accident

Drivers intending to turn left in an intersection must yield to drivers crossing the intersection unless they have a green arrow permitting them to turn. Generally, left-turning drivers are at fault for turning into the side of passing cars, however, if the car that was struck was speeding and the turning driver had no time to react, both drivers may share fault.

4. Single-Vehicle Accident

You may believe that the driver of a vehicle that has an accident with no other vehicles involved must be at fault, however, there are exceptions. For example, if you suddenly lose brakes on your car and must crash it to stop, the brak manufacturer or your mechanic may be at fault. If another vehicle suddenly pulls out in front of you or wanders into your lane and you crash your car avoiding them, those drivers will share fault or assume all of the fault if you had no opportunity to avoid the accident.

5. Chain Reaction Collision

The involvement of multiple drivers and vehicles often makes apportioning fault difficult. In a common scenario, Car 1 is stopped at a red light. Car 2 is braking and stopping behind Car 1. Car 3 rear ends Car 2 and pushes Car 2 into Car 1. In this case it is pretty clear that the driver of Car 3 is at fault, unless the drivers of Car 1 and 2 could have done something to prevent the crash.

That is a simple example. Let’s make it more complex. A car in the right lane sideswipes a car in the left lane, pushing them into oncoming traffic. That car is hit head-on and both cars skid across multiple lanes of traffic to come to rest on the shoulder. Most of the other surrounding drivers were able to brake, change lanes, and avoid being involved in the accident, while one driver rear-ended a car that had slowed to pass the accident. 

Who is at fault? Surely the right lane driver who initially sideswiped the car that left its lane bears much of the responsibility, however, the rear-ended driver and the one who rear-ended them may share some fault for their own damages depending upon their conduct. 

6. Sideswipe Accident

A sideswipe accident occurs when two vehicles traveling in the same direction or opposite directions strike one another on the side. Fault for these accidents depends upon who had the right of way and whether one of the drivers left their lane suddenly or without using a turn signal. 

Changing lanes and striking a vehicle in your blind spot is common. Those driving drunk may drift out of their lane and sideswipe another vehicle.

7. Side-Impact Collisions

Side-impact collisions, also called “T-bones,” occur when one driver drives into the side of another. These usually occur at intersections or stop signs where someone does not stop at the stop sign, runs a red light, or speeds up to try to make the yellow light before it turns red. 

The person failing to yield the right of way is generally at fault for causing the accident, however, if the other driver was drunk or distracted and failed to take any of the available defensive actions to avoid the accident, they may be at fault also.

8. Backing Up Parking Lot Collision

Parking lot accidents are usually at low speed, minimizing damage and injuries in many cases. However, if a pedestrian is involved, the injuries can be significant. Generally, vehicles traveling through have the right of way and those backing up out of their parking stall must yield. 

If the through vehicle was speeding or turned into the through lane suddenly, they may share fault with the backing-up driver. If two backing-up drivers collide, the one moving second should have made sure it was safe to back up and will be at fault.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

An experienced car accident lawyer in your jurisdiction will assess your case and help you determine whether the insurance company’s initial offer is just a low ball offer to ignore. Your car accident attorney will then identify all parties involved, investigate to determine the cause or causes of the accident, and consult with experts to determine the extent of your damages and compensation.

Your can accident lawyer will handle all negotiations with the insurance companies and will litigate your claim if they do not offer you an acceptable settlement.

Keep in mind that fault is a highly-litigated issue because the more you are at fault for causing the accident, the less you will be compensated. Your car accident attorney will fight tirelessly to ensure you are not apportioned a percentage of fault that is inappropriate. 

About Cousin Benny

The Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Cousin Benny treat you like family. We take your car accident case on contingency, meaning we do not get paid unless and until you do. Call us today to discuss your car accident claim, free of charge!

Benjamin Hoffman

Benjamin Hoffman is a practicing attorney licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Benjamin handles cases for individuals who have been injured as a result of an accident, slip/trip and fall or medical negligence.

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Benjamin Hoffman
Benjamin Hoffman is a practicing attorney licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Benjamin handles cases for individuals who have been injured as a result of an accident, slip/trip and fall or medical negligence.
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