What Happens If Fault Can’t Be Determined After a Car Accident?

Insurance companies determine fault through police reports, damage reports, witness reports, and other evidence from the scene, but what happens if fault can't be determined after a car accident? If fault can't be determined by car accident damage the insurance companies will continue to work together until fault is determined or split between the drivers. An auto insurance claim cannot move forward until fault is determined unless you live in a no-fault insurance state.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Insurance Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jun 6, 2022

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After an accident, insurance companies work to determine fault. But what happens if fault cannot be determined?

Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about how fault works, including how fault is determined after an accident and what happens if fault cannot be determined.

How Fault Works After an Accident

Fault plays an important role in the claims process after an accident. The driver who was at-fault for the accident is required to pay more compensation.

The driver who is 80% at fault for the accident, for example, is required to pay 80% of the compensation. The driver’s insurance company will pay 80% of the compensation to the other driver.

In some cases, the fault is split evenly, with each driver assigned an equal portion of the blame – fault is split 50/50. In other cases, the fault is easier to determine, and one driver is 100% to blame while the other driver is 0% to blame.

Sometimes, fault can be more muddled. There might be an 80/20 insurance settlement, for example, or a 90/10 insurance settlement. In this situation, one driver was more at fault for the accident, although the other driver also shares a small portion of the blame.

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How Insurance Companies Determine Fault After an Accident

Insurance companies will use every available resource to determine fault after an accident:

  • Police Reports
  • Eyewitness Statements
  • Dashcams
  • Other Cameras (CCTV, Surveillance Cameras, etc.)
  • Driver Statements
  • Photos
  • Vehicle Damage (Location and Extent of Damage, etc.)
  • Evidence at the Scene (Skidmarks, etc.)

In some cases, the initial police report will determine fault after an accident. The case was cut and dry, and the police report will clearly state which driver is to blame.

In other cases, the police report does not determine fault, in which case the insurance company’s claims adjuster will investigate the facts, analyze the evidence above, then determine the best path forward.

The final decision on fault can only be determined by the insurance company. You might believe that the other driver is 100% to blame, while the other driver might think you are 100% to blame. At this point, it’s up to each insurance company to investigate the situation, then work together to assign blame accurately.

What About Hit and Runs?

In a hit and run situation, the other driver is unknown. However, the insurance company will still conduct an investigation to determine fault.

First, the insurance company may want you to file a police report – especially if the incident caused significant damages or injuries.

Next, the insurance company will investigate the claim as they normally would. The unknown driver may be found 100% at-fault for the accident. Or, depending on the situation, you might share a portion of the blame.

What Happens If Fault Cannot Be Determined?

In some cases, the insurance companies cannot reach an agreement on fault. Maybe no police statements were taken at the time of the accident. Maybe the accident occurred at a deserted intersection with no eyewitnesses or cameras around.

In these situations, the insurance companies will continue working together to determine fault.

Insurance companies need to determine fault to move forward with the insurance claim. Fault plays an important role in the compensation process both today and in the future.

When the fault isn’t clear, the insurance company’s adjusters will continue investigating the claim to determine the facts. The adjusters from each insurance company might negotiate back and forth before reaching an agreement.

In some cases, it’s impossible to accurately determine fault. Both drivers say the other is to blame. One driver is telling one story, while the other driver is telling another story.

If the investigation does not give any further clarity, then the insurance companies might agree to a 50/50 insurance settlement. Fault cannot be accurately determined, so the fault is split evenly between both parties.

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Consider Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

Many personal injury lawyers specialize in car accident insurance claims. These lawyers will fight on your behalf to ensure fair treatment.

If you were not at fault for the accident, then you should not receive any portion of fault whatsoever.

Sometimes, your insurance company will push for an 80/20 settlement because they want to limit their costs. By assigning a portion of blame to the other driver, the insurance company is reducing the amount they have to pay.

If your insurance company is not acting in good faith, or if you disagree with the way they determined fault after an accident, then consider scheduling a consultation with a personal injury lawyer.

Final Word

Overall, it’s rare for insurance companies to throw up their hands and say fault cannot be determined. Insurance companies need to establish fault to move forward with the insurance claim.

Sometimes, fault can be difficult to assign. There might be limited evidence of the accident. The police report might be unclear which driver did what. In these situations, insurance companies will investigate using all available resources to determine fault – even if the investigation takes weeks or months.

If the situation is still jumbled and fault cannot be determined, then the two insurance companies might agree to a 50/50 settlement.

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