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Why fault for a crash is not always clear cut

Say that you are the passenger in a vehicle, and the driver reaches over to change radio stations, veering off the road slightly. Afterward, the driver looks up to see a pole immediately ahead and crashes into it. The fault seems fairly apparent: It is the driver's fault and no one else's. Right?

Similarly, suppose that you are driving a vehicle around a sharp curve, and as a result, fail to see a stop sign. You crash into another car at an intersection. Again, the fault seems obvious: It has to be yours and no one else's. Right? Well, not necessarily.

Design matters a lot

The fact is that road design, highway design, intersection design, you name it, matters a lot. Even the placement of a pole can carry serious consequences. Transportation officials have the responsibility of keeping safety in mind when they issue decisions such as speed limits, the placement of concrete islands, types of road markings and much more. Even not having a tree trimming schedule or one that has trims too far apart can end up in a case where a transportation department is found liable in a crash because leaves blocked a stop sign or other important road sign.

Keep any fault judgments to yourself

You may have heard it from your insurance company: Never admit fault at the scene of an accident. Give the bare facts only. This is because, even if you think you must be at fault, you do not know the entire story. You have no idea if the other driver may have been drinking or checking a text. You have no idea if there was a much better place for that telephone pole or if there should have been a warning sign letting you know about a stop sign coming up. The causes of an accident are not always easy to identify, and it could be that the fault lies, partly or wholly, with an agency not even involved in the crash.

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