Imagine you’re driving down the road during the Pennsylvania winter. You approach a stoplight and slowly come to a stop. Suddenly, you feel a huge jerk from behind. A car has hit your back end and now you’re dealing with an accident. Who is at fault?

While the answer seems obvious to you, there are usually discrepancies in the insurance companies and the court who is actually at fault for a specific accident. It begs the question of how to determine fault in these situations.

Five ways to determine fault during an accident

There are five ways to determine fault in most crashes:

  1. The drivers determine the fault – At the scene of the accident, drivers can actually decide who caused the crash. Someone could take responsibility and claim they caused the crash. However, if no one does, you should take photos, interview witnesses and record any information from the other driver.
  2. The police determine the fault – When the police arrive on the scene, they will investigate the scene and assess who they believe is at fault. The police report doesn’t necessarily put the fault into stone, but it’s usually a great document for insurance companies and drivers who are injured at the scene.
  3. The insurance companies determine the fault – Most drivers rely on the insurance companies to determine who caused the accident. Your insurance company decided the outcome and possibly seek restitution if the institution determines that the other driver was at fault.
  4. An arbitrator determines the fault – If insurance companies cannot decide, they may have you work with an arbitrator to determine the right outcome for the incident. It’s a cheaper option than going to court and settles a firm resolution.
  5. The court determines the fault – Finally, you may pursue a lawsuit in court to determine fault. It’s one of the rarest ways to determine the cause of an accident due to the expense and time it requires to go to court. However, it can pay off big time for whomever wins the suit.

Pennsylvania is especially unique because it’s technically a no-fault state, which means the insurance company covers for medical treatments and out-of-pocket losses occurred by anyone under a policy. However, residents can “opt-out” of no-fault insurance and potentially sue another driver for compensation.

So how do you determine fault? It depends on multiple factors, so there is no simple answer. However, you can work with a legal professional to help determine the best route for you after a car accident.