One of the most important determinations to make after a car accident is, “who was at fault?” Most car accidents are entirely preventable, and only occur because one or more drivers made a crucial mistake, like drifting into a lane of oncoming traffic or neglecting a traffic sign.
According to The NYE Law Group, some of the most common causes of car accidents are intoxicated driving, distracted driving, reckless driving, and failure to obtain adequate auto service. In most of these cases, one or more drivers can be assigned responsibility for the wreck.
But are there any cases where neither driver involved can be found to blame? Is it possible for police officers, drivers, lawyers, and even insurance agents to determine that absolutely no one was at fault?
The basic answer is yes; there are some car collisions that can be determined to have no driver at fault. These are just some of the potential conditions:
- Unknown manufacturing defects. First, some accidents can result from a manufacturing defect. If a car manufacturer uses faulty parts in their braking system, for example, and a braking failure results in an accident, the manufacturer may be the one responsible for the accident—not a driver involved in the collision. However, there’s an exception to this rule; auto manufacturers are required to alert consumers if and when they discover a flaw in their vehicles. If you know about the defect, and you refuse to get it fixed, you may be the one held responsible for the accident.
- Negligent vehicular repairs. Vehicle owners are responsible for maintaining their vehicles and keeping them in safe operating condition. In other words, you have to get your car serviced routinely and repair any unsafe flaws or problems. However, if the service worker fails to install something correctly, or if they knowingly sabotage your vehicle, they may be the ones held liable for the accident—instead of one of the drivers involved.
- Unknowable dangerous road conditions. Some hazardous road conditions may also make an accident practically unpreventable. For example, a hidden pothole that hasn’t been marked or repaired could easily cause an accident. Note that for the most part, you’ll be responsible for observing and planning for hazardous road conditions; for example, if the roads are icy, or if there’s active construction in play, you’ll need to drive slower and increase your following distance to compensate. Otherwise, you could still be found at fault.
- Acts of God and unavoidable damage. There may be some forms of inevitable damage that either damage your car directly or result in conditions that produce an accident. For example, if a bolt of lightning hits a tree that falls instantly on your car and the car beside you, neither you nor the other driver will likely be held at fault for that. The exception here is that you’re still required to react adequately; for example, if this happens to the car in front of you, you still need to brake in time to avoid a collision.
As you can see, even if no driver is found at fault, most accidents have some person responsible for the collision.
You may notice that you have a no-fault clause in your insurance contract; in some states, this is a requirement. This isn’t coverage specifically for accidents where no driver is found at fault, but it may activate under these conditions. No-fault insurance indemnifies the insured party for their losses, regardless of how fault is determined in the car accident. That sets no-fault insurance apart from insurance policies that compensate drivers contingent on who is found to be at fault. It covers hospital fees and other medical expenses stemming from injuries sustained in the accident, as well as lost revenue and funeral expenses.
Improving Your Driving Safety
There may be some accidents that are entirely unpreventable, but they’re exceedingly rare. If you want to reduce your risk of being involved in an auto vehicle collision, the burden is on you to become a safer driver. It’s essential to understand and follow all traffic laws in your area and obey all posted traffic signs and warnings. You need to yield to other traffic when appropriate, follow at a safe distance, and modify your driving style to suit your surroundings. You also need only to drive when you’re in peak condition and at peak focus—in other words, don’t drive drunk, distracted, or tired. If you do this, not only will you sharply decrease your risk of being found at fault in an accident, but you’ll also increase your chances of avoiding an unpreventable accident.
The short answer is yes, car collisions can be no one’s fault. However, we owe it to ourselves and other drivers to prevent any accidents we can.