Determining who is at fault in a car accident is not always easy and can get complicated. There are millions of accidents nationally that occur each year resulting in injuries, property damage, and unfortunately tens of thousands of deaths.

No one is immune to the possibility of an accident and it’s good to know how the process works and some tips with how to deal with it. If you have car insurance in New York or any state for that matter, you can call your insurer to assist you with your claim after a car accident. Having an at-fault accident on your driving record can make cheap NY car insurance very difficult to obtain, so you want to make sure the other driver is held liable if they are in fact, at fault for the accident.

The following information can be of help to you as well.

Drivers Themselves Determine Fault

Oftentimes at the scene of an accident, the drivers themselves will admit to fault. This can be due to being shaken up and not thinking clearly or even intimidation from the other driver. It’s not a good idea to admit to fault, especially if you’re unsure. If you change your mind later, the words could come back to hurt you, especially if you’re too forthcoming.

Instead, it is wise to take pictures of the accident vehicles before they are moved and write down the location, time of impact, and weather conditions. Also make a point to gather the other driver or driver’s license information along with a picture of their insurance ID card.

Police Assessment and Report

Even if all vehicles involved in a crash are drivable, it’s a good idea to call the police to the scene to document the accident. They’ll first make sure that no one is injured and request medical help if needed. They’ll then assess the scene to see how the vehicles are situated which is why it’s important not to move any of the vehicles if at all possible.  Oftentimes, the placement of the cars are enough to determine fault status. The police will also most often draw a diagram of the scene. Of course, they also will interview the drivers and any witnesses to the crash, prepare an incident report on scene for the drivers and prepare the official accident report later on.

Insurance companies will interview all drivers and even witnesses, but the police report tends to be the document most relied on. Especially if you’re not at fault, it’s a very important document that could help to prove that you are not liable for the crash.

Insurance Companies

If you file a claim with your own NY car insurance company, they will investigate the claim for fault status as well as the physical damage and any injuries. Your vehicle will be repaired as long as you have collision coverage and car rental will be provided if you have that coverage as well. Regarding fault status, if they determine that it was the other driver’s fault, the insurance company will subrogate with the other drivers insurer to be reimbursed for the claim amount paid and refund your deductible.

An issue can occur if the other driver’s insurer deems you at fault in the accident. When there is no agreement between insurance companies as to fault status, the issue most often goes to arbitration.


Arbitration is conducted by and independent company that determines the damage amounts and also decides who’s at fault and ultimately responsible to pay for the damages.

Sometimes, arbitration results in a “partial fault” verdict which will show on your driving record as an at-fault accident even though you were on 100% at fault. This can affect your premium rate with your current insurer or if you get some NY car insurance quotes with another company.

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