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By John Kristensen of Kristensen, LLP posted in Car Accident on Friday, March 23, 2018.
Who Determines Fault After a Car Accident in California? Police vs Lawyers

If you have been injured in a car accident in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California, who will determine fault and liability in your case? Is it the police, lawyers, or the judge? Or is it your insurance company?

This is a very common question among people in California, where there are more than 160,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents per year. Whether you believe that you were at fault for the accident or that the other motorist was responsible for the car crash, who really determines fault in Los Angeles?

This is the question we asked our Los Angeles car accident lawyers from the Kristensen LLP.

The police report does not always get it right

Most residents in California tend to believe that the police report is the only thing that matters after a car accident. They tend to believe that if the police report says that the other motorist caused the car crash, they are guaranteed to recover damages through a settlement or verdict. Likewise, they wrongfully believe that there is nothing they can do to obtain compensation if the police report says that they were at fault.

This is wrong for two reasons, our Los Angeles car accident lawyer says. First of all, the police report does not necessarily get it right 100 percent of the time. Second of all, California follows a legal doctrine of pure comparative negligence, which allows you to recover a portion of damages even if you were partially at fault for the accident.

Who determines fault after a car accident?

A far better way to determine who was at fault for your car accident – regardless of what the police report says – is to seek the legal advice from an experienced attorney. Here is the thing: the police report can get it completely wrong for various reasons. These include but are not limited to:

  • The police officer’s opinion may be biased because you are a motorcyclist or based on discriminatory characteristics;
  • The other motorist may sound more convincing than you (though it does not mean that he/she is right);
  • One of the witnesses may give an inaccurate description of what happened.

There are many reasons why the police report is not really a good indication of how your insurance company or the court will determine liability in your motor vehicle accident. In other words, just because the police report seemingly determines fault – or merely hints that one of the drivers was more at fault – does not necessarily make the police officers’ opinion determinative for purposes of legal responsibility.

Why an attorney can do a better job at determining liability

Another thing to keep in mind is that not all police reports include the police officers’ professional opinion of who was responsible for the car crash. Needless to say, without a Los Angeles car accident attorney, who will conduct his own unbiased, thorough and fair investigation with the help of accident reconstruction experts, experts who review skid marks, investigators, and a plethora of other professionals, it may be quite difficult to prove that the other motorist was at fault when the police report clearly and unambiguously states that you were at fault.

Do not jump to conclusions without consulting a car accident lawyer from the Kristensen LLP. Contact our Los Angeles offices to get a free case evaluation. Only a skilled attorney can determine fault in your case after a thorough investigation. Call our offices at 310-984-1297 or complete this contact form.