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How do you prove fault after a car accident in California?

If another driver hits you and injures you, you must prove the accident was the other driver’s fault before you can receive any monetary compensation for your injuries. Read the article below to learn how.

Police Reports are useful in determining fault for California car collisions

Police don’t always arrive at the scene of an accident. They will usually come out if the collision is more severe, or if there are reported injuries. But if it’s an accident with relatively little damage to the vehicles, the police dispatch will usually tell you to resolve the dispute on your own by exchanging information between all parties.

But if the police do come out, their collision report may be useful. These reports are summaries of the officer’s observations of the accident scene. They will take notes of:

  • the vehicle positions (warning:vehicle positions may have been moved since the accident)
  • vehicle debris on the roadway
  • tire skid marks
  • damage to the vehicles
  • road conditions
  • weather conditions
  • and more

Keep in mind officers are humans and can make mistakes. So while the police report is important in determining who is at fault, it isn’t always accurate and can be challenged. In fact, you can ask the officer who filed the report to make changes. They will not always comply, but if the mistake is severe enough it is worth the attempt.

Police reports are useful to determine what evidence or investigation is needed. Do not rely on the police report itself. Treat it like a roadmap, to point you in the direction you need to go.

The California Vehicle Code can be used to prove fault in an accident

The California Vehicle Code can be helpful in proving the other driver was at fault. If you can show the other driver violated the law when they caused the accident, it will give you more leverage to prove it is the other driver’s fault.

In fact, if you can show:

  1. That the other driver violated this law and
  2. That the violation was a substantial factor in bringing about the accident;

Then the other driver is presumed to be negligent per se.1 Negligence per se is different than regular negligence.

Showing the other driver violated a state or code when causing the accident will give you significant leverage in proving who is responsible for causing the crash.

Liability in rear end and left turn accidents

These are the two easiest to prove types of accidents. When someone rear-ends another vehicle, it is almost always the fault of the driver in the rear. Almost.

Of course, if you’re driving and someone dangerously jerks their car over a lane right in front of you and slams on their brakes, you can technically prove it was their fault. But you will need video proof or very very strong witness testimony.

As for left turn accidents, if they hit a vehicle going straight in an intersection, it is almost always the fault of the car turning left. The car going straight through usually has the right of way. The car turning left usually must yield to oncoming traffic. Of course, if the car going straight is speeding, or ran a stop sign/red light, then this can shift blame.

But these two are the easiest to prove.

Using scene evidence to prove fault

You can use the scene of the accident to help you. Road debris, road geography, and other environmental details can help prove your case.

Hopefully you had a camera and took as many photos you could of the roads, the vehicle positions, the damage etc. Look for skid marks and debris from your car like broken windshield, tail lights, any car body parts, and the weather conditions.

Vehicle damage taken with the scene photographs can also help prove damage as you can try and reconstruct the accident by the paths of the vehicles and corresponding damage to the cars.

So take as many detailed photographs as you can.

Accident and Injury Attorneys have the experience to prove or dispute fault

If your accident is one where fault isn’t easily proven, this is where an experienced attorney can really help. Like the insurance adjusters you will be going up against, we deal with many cases each year and our careers are based on proving it was the other driver who caused your accident, and that this accident caused your injuries.

So it really makes sense to speak with an attorney right away. Consultations are free so you have nothing to lose.


  1. https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/400/418.html 

Law Office of Joseph Dang

7220 Trade St., #220
San Diego, CA 92121
Phone: 888-320-2058