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How Do Authorities Determine Who Was at Fault in an Auto Accident?

For anyone who has recently been in an auto accident, the next step is usually a call to the local authorities and the insurance companies. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, one or more of the involved parties may receive tickets, fines or other legal ramifications as a result. Typically auto accident law states that the person who was at fault for the accident will be charged with reckless driving or a similar crime, but first the authorities must determine who caused the accident.

FIRSTHAND ACCOUNTS

When the authorities arrive at the scene of the accident, they will take a moment to observe the situation as it sits. Then, if nobody is in dire need of medical attention, they will get reports from the drivers who were involved. In most minor accidents, authorities are able to determine fault on the spot based on what they see of the accident scene and the driver interviews. However, if one or both drivers is disputing their fault in the accident, further investigation may be needed.

EYEWITNESSES

Depending on the time of day and location of the accident, the next step in the investigation process will be to gather statements from anyone who saw the accident happen. If there was anyone else present at the time the accident happened, it is helpful if they stick around until they can make a formal statement. However, auto accident law does not require witnesses to stay in most cases. For drivers involved in an accident, it is probably a good idea to gather contact information from witnesses before they leave if they are unable to stay and wait for the police to arrive.

THE CIRCUMSTANCES

Finally, the authorities will take into account outside circumstances that may have contributed to the accident. Traffic, road construction, weather conditions and more can have an impact on the way the authorities administer fines and tickets.

In most cases, the local authorities will be able to determine who was at fault for an accident immediately after it is reported. In more complex cases they may spend more time speaking to witnesses and gathering additional information before making a determination, especially when more than two vehicles are involved.

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