Fault: What It Is and How It’s Decided

Sep 14, 2017 | Car Accidents, General Personal Injury, Truck Accidents

After a semi-truck accident or car crash, one critical consideration in assessing whether you have a personal injury claim against the other driver is to determine “fault” for the accident, that is who caused the accident. While we all have a basic understanding of what it means to be at fault, generally it has a very different meaning when it comes to your motor vehicle and semi-truck accident. In this post, we will examine the concept of fault as it relates to your accident, as well as some factors that might be considered in determining fault.

What Is Fault

Legally, fault essentially means culpability. It is the party who is responsible for the accident due either to negligent or intentional conduct. Fault is essential when it comes to determining who is liable to pay the damages from the accident.Determining Who’s At Fault

While you might think it is clear who is at fault, it is often more complicated than you realize. In many states, the blame can be attributed to one or more parties, with each person accepting a specific percentage of the blame. Damages are awarded based on the percentages of fault determined by the jury.

Consider an accident involving three parties: an SUV, a sedan, and a semi-truck. In the accident, the semi driver is driving down the highway in the left-hand lane while talking on their cell phone. Distracted, the semi driver swerves, crossing over into the right-hand lane striking the sedan who has been speeding to pass the semi. The SUV driver, who is changing the radio station, does not notice the accident in time and rear-ends the sedan.

In this example, all three drivers share fault. Because the semi driver initiated the accident, they might be given the lion’s share of the fault, say 60%, as they were driving while distracted. The sedan driver also shares some fault because they were speeding and driving aggressively, so they are hypothetically given 30% fault. The SUV driver is at fault for the remaining 10%, because they took their eyes off the road to change the radio station.

When it comes time to pay for the damages, each person will be responsible for their percentage of fault. They will pay 60%, 30%, and 10% of the damages, respectively.


Understanding fault can be difficult, but if you have been involved in a car or semi-truck accident, it is important that you grasp these basics. Hopefully, this blog has helped explain what fault is and how it is decided. If you have any questions, speak to your local personal injury and truck accident lawyer.