Learn what to do in an at-fault accident, how insurance companies determine fault in an accident, and how to make the most of your insurance coverage.

In most cases, insurance companies will determine who is at-fault according to state laws where the incident occurred. And they’ll also review the facts relating to the accident to determine who was negligent. Fault can be assigned to the party that was most negligent — or in greatest violation of state laws — when the accident happened. But frequently, all parties share some responsibility for a collision.

Note that the word “negligence” itself can mean different things, depending on the state you’re in — we’ll explore that in detail below. If you’re still wondering how to determine fault in a car accident, keep this in mind: although vehicle damage can be important in identifying fault, other factors like weather conditions, physical evidence and police report details play a key role in how fault is determined in a car accident.

So, what does an “at-fault accident” mean according to the law and how do insurance companies determine fault? Let’s clear up the confusion and dive in — to help you figure out who’s at-fault in a car accident.

So now that we know there may be a different set of criteria in your state, let’s look at how insurance companies typically determine fault in a car accident.

Police reports

The police report is considered a good, objective look at the accident. While the police officers typically weren’t there when it happened, they’re experienced in asking the right questions, collecting important information and getting people to cooperate.

Evidence from the scene

If you gathered evidence, your insurance company is going to use this to help determine fault. They might also collect evidence from the other insurance company.


If there were witnesses who provided their names and contact information, your insurance company will reach out to them to get their take on the accident.

The environment

Your insurance company will carefully evaluate the accident location, the time of day and other factors. For example, certain areas are known to be dangerous, or inclement weather could have been a factor, or construction or another accident may have played a role in your incident.

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Will Being At-fault Affect My Insurance Premiums?

If it’s determined that you have been found at-fault in a crash, your insurance rates won’t automatically rise. They might not rise at all. Your insurance company will look at several factors before making any rate determinations. They’ll review your driving record and the circumstances around the accident.

And if you have accident forgiveness on your policy, your rates may not go up. If your premium does increase, your next step is to start fresh and reestablish your good driving record. One accident won’t affect your rates forever.

If you’re found at-fault in a car accident or it’s determined that you were negligent in a car accident, try not to be too hard on yourself.

Accidents happen, and we’re here to help you through it and get back on track. If you’d like more information on car insurance you can connect with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab). And be sure to check out our Resources for Car Accidents hub for more helpful articles as well as our auto insurance comparison guide to discover what coverages work best for you.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

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