Proving Fault in a Kansas Auto Accident

black car key with a traffic collision report and blue pen

Under the Kansas no-fault auto insurance laws, you may only be able recover compensation from an at-fault driver if your injuries meet one of the thresholds established in the no-fault law. If you do have the basis for a claim, you need to establish that the accident was the other driver’s fault. In this article, the personal injury lawyers at Sloan Law Firm explain the analysis that goes into proving fault in a Kansas auto accident.

What Determines Fault in an Auto Accident?

The legal standard of negligence determines whether a driver is at fault in an auto accident. In general terms, negligence means a failure to act with the care of an ordinary person under the circumstances. For example, a traffic violation like speeding or running a red light may constitute negligence in an accident.

Demonstrating the fault of a driver requires legal skill in analyzing the evidence of an accident and in applying the legal negligence principles to the evidence. An experienced personal injury lawyer has the knowledge to conduct the complex analysis that is necessary to show negligence and prove fault in an accident.

Kansas Auto Insurance Laws

The Kansas no-fault auto insurance statutes limit your ability to recover compensation from an at-fault driver if you receive injuries in an auto accident. The laws require every driver to carry minimum levels of insurance, including Personal Injury Protection coverage, often referred to as no-fault coverage. If you’re injured in an accident, your own PIP insurance pays your medical expenses and some other out-of-pocket economic costs, regardless of who is at fault for the accident.

If you’re seriously injured in an accident caused by another driver, and your PIP benefits do not fully cover your losses, you may be able to make a legal claim against the at-fault driver. A negligence claim allows recovery for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses not covered by PIP. However, the Kansas Automobile Reparations Act limits your ability to obtain compensation for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering. To recover all of the losses possible, the victim’s medical bills must have a reasonable value of $2,000 or more, or the victim has to have suffered at least one of the following types of injury:

  • A permanent injury within a reasonable medical probability
  • Permanent loss of a bodily function
  • Permanent disfigurement
  • A compound, comminuted (splintered), displaced, or compressed fracture
  • Fracture of a weight-bearing bone
  • Loss of a body part
  • Death

If you think your injury meets one of the statutory requirements, and another person may be at fault for the accident, it’s essential to talk with a personal injury lawyer. You should never contact or talk to an insurance adjuster for the at-fault driver. Doing so may affect your ability to recover compensation. Your lawyer will investigate the accident and determine fault by analyzing the evidence, which includes a wide range of information about the accident.

Another important reason to talk with a lawyer is the standard of comparative negligence that applies in all Kansas personal injury cases, including auto accident claims. To recover from an at-fault driver, an injured victim must be less than 50% at fault for the accident to recover from an at-fault driver. If the victim is 50% or more at fault, no recovery is allowed. Under this standard, identifying the extent of fault of both drivers is essential in the accident investigation.

Evidence of Fault in an Auto Accident

Assembling the evidence about fault in an accident includes exploring all available information that provides clues about how the accident happened. Evidence relating to an accident includes many different types of information.

Witness Statements About the Auto Accident

Accounts of the accident by eyewitnesses are one factor in determining fault. In some cases, the only witnesses may be the two drivers involved in the accident. It’s not uncommon for the statements of the drivers to conflict with each other, with each driver blaming the other one for the accident. When that happens, other evidence relating to the accident provides important information about how the accident occurred.

When there are eyewitnesses other than the two drivers, their accounts of the accident may be helpful in determining who was at fault. However, sometimes eyewitness statements are not reliable. Witness accounts reflect a subjective assessment of an event that lasted no more than a few seconds. The perspective from which the witness saw the accident may affect the reliability of their assessment. Each witness and witness statement must be evaluated for credibility.

Police Accident Report

In many accident cases, there is a police report on the accident that provides valuable information to help determine which driver was at fault. While the police officer making the report was not an eyewitness to the accident, law enforcement officers are trained to investigate and analyze accidents and compile their observations in an official accident report.

While important as part of an accident investigation, the police report is not conclusive evidence of how the accident occurred. But it is an important part of the evidence your lawyer gathers during the accident investigation.

Videos and Photographs

Analyzing all available video and photographic evidence is an extremely valuable part of the investigation. Video and photographs taken after the accident by the drivers, witnesses, and police often provide clues about how the accident happened. If one or both vehicles had a dashboard camera (dashcam), that video may be valuable in establishing the cause of the accident.

Sometimes, video of the accident may be available from traffic cams or security video cameras of nearby businesses. Because a real-time recording of the crash can be a critical part of the evidence used to determine fault, investigation of an auto accident always includes a comprehensive search to find any nearby video cameras that recorded the accident.

Other Types of Information About the Cause of an Auto Accident

In a particular case, other information may help determine fault in an auto accident. For example, depending on the severity of injuries and complexity of the accident, a personal injury lawyer may decide to use an expert, such as an accident reconstruction expert, to help determine the cause of the accident and establish liability of an at-fault driver.

When Should You Call an Attorney?

When you receive serious injuries in an auto accident and another person may be at fault, complex Kansas laws apply to determining legal liability and recovering compensation. Navigating through the issues on your own is not a good idea. Negotiating with the insurance company for an at-fault driver without assistance from a lawyer is also a bad approach. To ensure that you receive full and fair reimbursement and compensation, you should talk with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Even if you have minor, temporary injuries from an accident, talking with a lawyer may be beneficial. An attorney may help you recover additional compensation, such as additional coverage beyond medical expenses under your PIP. A lawyer can also help if you have a dispute with your insurance company.

Talk With a Kansas Auto Accident Attorney

The personal injury attorneys at Sloan Law Firm have the right experience and knowledge to help you handle all aspects of a car accident claim. From our offices in Topeka and Lawrence, our lawyers assist clients throughout the state. We invite you to contact us by calling (785) 357-6311 or using our online contact form.