How is it determined who was responsible for a collision?
Every state and the District of Columbia have somewhat different rules for determining accident liability or responsibility. What may appear to you to be a collision obviously caused by another driver may appear to the insurance companies more questionable. Again, there are incentives for drivers who cause collisions to tell their insurance companies that they were not at fault. They are often concerned about their insurance rates rising, tickets for their poor driving behavior, and potential civil liability if you obtain a judgment against them. One important factor in determining who is responsible for a collision is the information contained in the police report. There are occasions where the police officer either misunderstands how a collision took place or alternately appears to be interested in providing a report for one driver or another even if it is in contradiction to the facts of the collision. It is important that you describe how the collision happened to the investigating officer at the scene, but often in serious collisions the extent of the injury or circumstances make it impossible to tell the officer how the collision happened. If the police officer visits you at the hospital to discuss the collision it is useful to have another friend or family member present when the discussion takes place to ensure that the police accurately understands how you believe the collision took place and to ensure that your description of the collision is not affected by any medicines you might be taking, or the seriousness of injuries you might have suffered. There are occasions where police officers have difficulty reconciling the descriptions of the collision based upon their discussions with the participants and witnesses. This is where having pictures whether from a cell phone or camera can be very helpful.
Police reports do not determine who is at fault but they can be a useful tool. Most times the police officer did not actually see the collision take place, and describes how the collision happened based upon the descriptions of the participants and witnesses and observations made at the scene of the collision.