How Is Fault Determined In An Accident?

In 2019, there were over 1600 fatal collisions in Canada, and more than 100,000 that caused personal injuries. When a car accident occurs, is it always clear who’s responsible for it, and who the victim is? 

Not necessarily. Sometimes, both drivers may be at fault; in other cases, no one is at fault.

After a car accident, emotions are high. Even as drivers are exchanging information, they may be pointing fingers and arguing about who was in the wrong. What happens when both drivers insist that the other is to blame for the accident? 

It’s up to the court system to determine who’s guilty of causing the accident. They must consider more than what the drivers themselves report. Other factors at play may have affected the situation. 

How do you convict someone when it isn’t clear who is responsible? Here’s how fault is determined after a car accident:

Why Does It Matter Who’s At Fault?

In short, fault determines who’s liable for damages—and who may face criminal charges. If you are found to be at fault for a car accident, your insurance provider may not cover any damages or the deductible.

But what if both drivers are partially responsible? In Manitoba, fault is identified based on a percentage; for example, collisions that involve one driver mean that one individual is 100% at fault. In another accident, one driver could be 25% responsible, and the other could be 75% responsible. Based on the degree of responsibility that one person has, insurance rates and claims will vary. 

The more at fault you are, the more you’ll have to pay. Fault will impact your auto insurance rates and your ability to make a claim. It will also affect your DSR (or Driver Safety Rating). 

Even if you end up with a low DSR, it will move up by one level for each year of safe driving.

Determining Fault

When an adjuster or police officer is assessing a car accident, they consider the following factors:

  • Witness statements. What did those nearby see when the crash occurred? Perhaps they watched the collision from start to finish and noticed impaired driving, distracted driving, or criminal negligence. While witness statements alone won’t tell the whole story, they will play a role in how the court perceives a collision (especially if they are collected from someone impartial).
  • Evidence at the scene. If the accident occurred near a business, police may use security camera footage as evidence. Damage to the vehicles and surrounding property will indicate how the cars collided. Other drivers may have dashcam footage of the collision. 

What Happens If It’s Unclear Who’s At Fault?

It would be easier if every question had a clear-cut answer. But more often than not, things are grey instead of black and white. If no decisive conclusion can be reached at the scene of the collision, the matter may need to be settled in court.

But if you are found to be at fault, you could face one or more of the following penalties:

  • A criminal record
  • Licence suspension
  • A fine
  • Jail time

Have you been involved in an accident? A Winnipeg criminal defence lawyer can help. If you’re seeking legal representation from highly-trained defence lawyers, contact Brodsky Amy & Gould today.