How to Prove You Are Not at Fault in a Car Accident

When a car accident happens, sometimes the parties involved disagree on who is at fault or acted negligently in causing the collision. So how can a person prove they are not at fault in a car accident.

To establish fault obtain a copy of the accident report, review the law, and gather witness statements. These are some steps you can take to establish you are not at fault in a car accident.

Often it is clear who is at fault for the collision, but for the times when fault isn’t so apparent, you need to take steps to prove you are not at fault.

Proving Fault

Proving fault is essential in determining which party is legally responsible for paying for the damages caused by the collision. In cases that fault isn’t apparent, there are some steps; you can take to establish liability.

Police Report is used to establish Fault

If you are involved in an accident, you must call the police. The investigating officer will fill out a standard accident report. In this report, he is required to note the traffic conditions, time of the accident, weather conditions, and many other crucial details.

One of the essential tasks of the investigating officer is taking statements of not only the parties but also any witnesses. He should include the witnesses name, address, and telephone numbers in his report.

The officer may take pictures of the scene and provide a narrative of his opinion based on the information he has gathered. The report should also note the length of any skid marks and state any traffic law violations and the impairments of the driver.

Traffic law violations and impairments of the driver can be useful in supporting your position. Ask the investigating officer how you can obtain a copy of the report. Also, request the officers’ name and the law enforcement agency he represents.

Review the accident report. If you find any mistakes by the investigating officer, you can amend the report. Sometimes they make factual errors, such as the wrong times, or incorrect vehicle or insurance information. Generally, you can request a correction by supplying proof to confirm the error.

Factual changes concerning fault is more difficult. Each police department has a procedure for objecting or challenging a report. Contact the department involved in your case and request the procedures. The most common procedure is to attach a copy of your concerns to the initial report.

Research the Law

Use the internet and research the specifics concerning your accident. There may be some parish or state statutes that apply to your case. Check the laws on roadway markings, speed limits, and right of way.

The Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles division has laws accessible online. If the accident occurred in a city and involves city violations, they likely have the traffic statutes online, if not check the local library and city police office. Any violations of the law will bolster your position.

Witness Statements

An independent witness could be a pillar to establishing fault in a car accident. After an accident, all witnesses contact information should be gathered by you.

The investigating officer should have documented the witnesses names, telephone numbers, and addresses on the accident report. Frequently they will take statements from the witnesses and include the statements in the report.

Sometimes the witness statements are not written clearly or don’t accurately memorialize the accounts as you remember hearing at them while at the scene of the accident.

You need to contact the witness and ask for their honest recollection of the facts surrounding the accident. If the witness bolsters your position, ask them to provide an affidavit or witness statement. You can volunteer to draft the account based on their conversation.

It is not unreasonable for a person not to want to take the time to write up a witness statement for a person they don’t know. If you are willing to draft the document and they only have to sign you are more likely to receive a positive response.

Presumption of Negligence

The presumption of negligence applied in cases when a violation of law or standard practices caused an accident. The presumption of negligence is often used in rear-end cases.


In a rear-end collision it is presumed that the following driver was not prudently driving his car. He was either following too closely for the road conditions, driving inattentively or speeding. In a rear-end case, the location of the damages to the vehicles are often enough evidence necessary to prove fault.

It is important to be aware that Louisiana is a comparative negligence state. In limited cases, the following vehicle may not be 100 percent at fault in causing an accident.

If a party is rear-ended and found partially at fault, their recovery will be reduced by the percentage of their responsibility. Facts and circumstances can overcome the presumption of negligence in some instances. See  Cheairs v. State ex rel. Dept. of Transp. & Dev., 861 So.2d 536 (La. 2003).

Left-turning vehicle

There is also a presumption of negligence in collisions caused by a left-turning car. If a car is traveling straight down a road and a car makes a left-hand turn, the turning vehicle is presumed at fault.

The damage to the vehicles is critical in identifying the fault. In a left-turning accident, the damage would be on the front-end of one car and the front-right side of the other.

Just like in a rear-end cases there are exceptions to the “no-fault” provision for left-hand turns. If for example, the car going straight was speeding or ran a red light.

Negligence Law in Louisiana,

Have you been injured a car wreck in Louisiana? If so then, Louisiana’s laws on negligence are used to determine who’s responsible for the damages you suffered.

Louisiana’s negligence law, codified in Civil Code Article 2315 (A), states: Every act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it.

This statute is the basis for recovery in personal injury cases. Article 2315 is a broad statute and encompasses a wide range of negligent acts, and some actions are not so obvious.

Negligence and Duty Risk Analysis in Louisiana Law

For a person to establish a claim against another for negligence, a five-prong analysis was established by the courts.

  • Was the conduct a cause in fact of the harm? This is the “but for” question. If the plaintiff would not have been injured but for the defendant’s conduct, such conduct is a cause in fact.
  • Was a duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant? Did the defendant owe a duty to the plaintiff, either by statute, regulation, or custom?
  • Did the defendant breach this duty? Did the defendant conform to the duty owed to the plaintiff?
  • What was the scope of duty breached? Was the obligation breached intended to protect this plaintiff from this type of harm? Although this is a legal question, the answer depends on case-specific facts to determine foreseeability and ease of association.
  • What damages were suffered by the plaintiff? Was the harm suffered caused by the breach of duty?

Is Louisiana a Comparative Negligence State?

Yes, Louisiana has a comparative negligence rule. If a party has some responsibility for the accident then comparative negligence rules apply.

In Louisiana, an injured party has the right to recover for injuries sustained in an accident. The right of recovery exists even if the injured party is over 50% at fault for causing the wreck.

Louisiana Civil Code 2323 is the Louisiana statute that established the basis for comparative negligence. Application of La. C.C. Art. 2323 reduces plaintiff’s claim in proportionate to the percentage of his or her fault.

In other words, you can recover damages for the percentage you were not at fault in causing. If you have a personal injury claim wherein you sustained $200,000.00 in damages, but you were 50% at fault, your recovery would be $100,000.00.

Having an attorney experienced in accident reconstruction, and fault determination are crucial to getting a fair outcome for you.

What is Negligence Per Se in a Personal Injury Case?

Negligence per se is a determination by a court that a party is guilty of negligence without the need to put the issue before a jury. In a personal injury case, the only remaining question is the amount of damages.

Negligence per se commonly occurs when a violation of law is involved in causing the injury. For example, a car is seen speeding through a red traffic signal, in a school zone, and smashing into a car with you inside.

You hire an attorney to file suit to recover the damages you suffered in the accident. His actions violated traffic laws against speeding in a school zone and failure to stop for a red traffic signal.

Because the traffic violations were a proximate cause of the damages, the judge can rule that the driver was negligent without wasting judicial resources.

Negligence per se applies does not apply to all violations of the law, but only violations that lead to the cause of the accident or injury. In other words, the offense must have a casual relationship to the crash.

For example, driving on the roads in Louisiana without a valid drivers license is a violation of state statute. This violation had no impact on the cause of the accident, and the doctrine of negligence per se would not be applicable.

What are the Two Types of Damages Allowed in Louisiana Tort Law?

Compensatory and punitive damages are the two types of damages a party can seek to recovery under Louisiana tort law.

Compensatory damages are the classification of losses suffered because of the negligence of another party.

The purpose of compensatory damages is to put you in the position you were in before the accident. On the other hand, punitive damages are designed to punish the party who caused your injuries.

Compensatory Damages

Within compensatory damages, there are two categories of damages, general and special damages. Louisiana civil code article 2315 (A) is the foundation for Louisiana negligence law and provides in section (B) the damages an aggrieved party can recover.

Art. 2315. Liability for acts causing damages

A. Every act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it.

B. Damages may include loss of consortium, service, and society, and shall be recoverable by the same respective categories of persons who would have had a cause of action for wrongful death of an injured person. Damages do not include costs for future medical treatment, services, surveillance, or procedures of any kind unless such treatment, services, surveillance, or procedures are directly related to a manifest physical or mental injury or disease. Damages shall include any sales taxes paid by the owner on the repair or replacement of the property damaged

Special damages are usually easier to determine. They are the actual hard dollars lost because of the accident. The following are some examples of special damages:

  • Past medical expenses
  • Past lost wages
  • Future lost wages
  • Automobile repair costs
  • Personal expenses for items lost or replaced
  • Future Medical expenses
  • Funeral and burial expenses

General damages are not as easy to quantify; they include personal losses such as:

  • Past pain and suffering
  • Future pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Consortium (loss of service, society or spousal/family relationships)

Punitive Damages

Louisiana allows recovery for punitive damages in limited situations. La. LA Civ Code 3546 provides as follows:

Punitive damages may not be awarded by a court of this state unless authorized:

(1) By the law of the state where the injurious conduct occurred and by either the law of the state where the resulting injury occurred or the law of the place where the person whose conduct caused the injury was domiciled;  or

(2) By the law of the state in which the injury occurred and by the law of the state where the person whose conduct caused the injury was domiciled. LA Civ Code 3546

The following list is situations allowing recovery of punitive damages:

  • If you have suffered an injury as the result of domestic violence;
  • If you have sustained an injury in an accident with a drunk driver or other instance of gross negligence;
  • If you have sustained an injury by a product that has injured many people;
  • If you have sustained an injury because of a dangerous situation which was known but ignored;
  • If you have sustained an injury in a physical attack;
  • If a defendant engaged in criminal sexual activity with a person less than 17 years old.

If you have been involved in an accident, you need an attorney working for you that knows Louisiana negligence laws. The right attorney knows all aspects of the damages you are entitled to recover and how to maximize your recovery.

Sonja Bradley has helped many victims throughout south Louisiana obtain settlements and verdicts against defendants and their insurance companies.

If you want someone by your side, with experience and knowledge to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve, contact our offices in either Hammond or Livingston, Louisiana. Interested in reading more on Louisiana law visit our blog posts or click here to read about Louisiana’s No Pay, No Play laws.