Fault in a car accident
News & Insights

How Does Fault Factor Into a Car Accident Claim in Rhode Island?

Typically, the first thought that goes through your mind after a car accident is to wonder whether or how badly you are injured. Your second thought is probably to worry about who will pay your medical bills. If your accident was in Rhode Island, the compensation you receive for a car accident claim will depend on who was at fault in the accident.

Understanding Rhode Island’s Fault Rules

Rhode Island has some of the most generous fault rules of any state in the country. Unfortunately, these generous fault rules usually help the insurance companies more than they help the victims of accidents. This is because Rhode Island uses a pure comparative negligence standard to determine how much money you are eligible to get from another party in a car accident.

Pure Comparative Negligence

Most states use some kind of comparative negligence standard. But few use pure comparative negligence because it allows you to get compensation from the other party even if you are almost entirely responsible for an accident.

Thus, you could be 95% responsible for an accident and still sue the other party. Your compensation would be prorated by that 95%, meaning you would only receive 5% of your losses, but you still have the right to sue.

Even more confusingly, the other party could sue you to recover compensation, which would be prorated by the 5% for which they were responsible. Thus, this standard often results in both parties suing each other for damages after a car accident.

Establishing Fault

Before you can get any money, though, you need to establish fault. The following information is used by insurance companies, courts, and lawyers to determine fault in car accident claims.

Traffic Laws/Regulations

Typically, any party that was violating traffic laws was at least partially responsible for the accident. The more traffic laws you were violating, the more responsibility you typically have.

But that isn’t true in every situation. For example, if you were speeding by a few miles per hour and your headlights were off while your wipers were on, you were breaking two traffic laws. However, if the other driver ran a red light, their breach of traffic law may overwhelm your small violations.

Eyewitness Testimony

If you ask both drivers in an accident, “Who was at fault?” each driver will typically blame the other party. That isn’t very helpful when a court needs to determine who is responsible. One option is to get eyewitness testimony.

Typically, eyewitnesses are considered to be neutral, so their recollection of the accident isn’t affected by bias. If you were in an accident, one of the things you will typically want to do is collect the contact information for all witnesses. Then, your Rhode Island car accident attorney can collect witness statements as quickly as possible.

Police Reports/Accident Reconstruction

Another way that a court may determine fault is by looking at police reports or an accident reconstruction submitted by a professional. When they arrive, the police typically gather as much information about the scene of the accident as possible. But that doesn’t mean they can necessarily identify the at-fault party.

An accident reconstruction professional can use information from various sources, including the police report, to determine who did what and where fault should be assigned.

How Does Fault Impact Possible Compensation? An Example

All of this is great in theory but may still be confusing to understand. An example should make it easier to follow.

Assume for a moment that you were driving in Rhode Island without a seat belt on but were following all other traffic laws. You stopped at a stop sign, and the person behind you didn’t stop, slamming into you. In the accident, you suffered several injuries, including whiplash.

After investigating your case, the other driver’s insurance company determined that the whiplash resulted from not wearing your seat belt. However, the other injuries were the fault of the other driver. After some calculations, the insurance company determined that you were 20% responsible for your injuries and paid for 80% of your damages.


Why Do Insurance Companies Benefit From Pure Comparative Negligence?

Pure comparative negligence standards allow the insurance companies to point fingers at each other.

Your insurance company might decide you are 20% responsible for an accident, forcing you to get the other 80% from the other party’s insurance company. However, that insurer might decide you are 40% responsible, only paying 60% of your damages. That leaves you with 20% of your losses unpaid.

This is why you should hire a car accident attorney as quickly as possible in Rhode Island.

Will My Car Accident Claim Go to Trial?

Probably not. Typically, personal injury attorneys negotiate with the insurance company to get a fair settlement without having to go to court. This is a win for both sides because the insurance company avoids paying for a lawyer, and you get your money more quickly.

What Happens if More Than Two People Are At Fault?

The situation doesn’t change much when multiple people are at fault. It just takes a lot more work to determine how much fault each party has and who is responsible for what percentage of other people’s damages.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney at Sands Law Today

If you were involved in a car accident in Rhode Island, you want to get compensation for your injuries. Unfortunately, car insurance companies aren’t on your side. Sands Law is equipped to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.

Contact us immediately after a Rhode Island car accident to schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.


Recover more compensation. Save time. Worry less. Leave it to the experts at Sands Law to help you. It’s what we’re here for.

Was the first time I ever had to seek legal representation after a car accident that I was injured in. Rich was recommended to me through a family member, and I am so glad that I decided to be represented by Rich.”
Nicole, Rhode Island
Rich was supportive and helpful throughout a very difficult time for me. I recently got into a car accident where I was injured and my car was declared totaled. In complete panic not knowing what to do, I called Rich.”
Karissa, Rhode Island
Rich was a wealth of knowledge and support during a difficult time. He always made time to explain procedures and answer all questions in a timely manner.”
Mark M., Rhode Island
  • Super Lawyers
  • Avvo Rating - Top Attorney
  • Martindale-Hubbell
  • The National Trial Lawyers