Millions of car accidents occur in the U.S. every year. If you find yourself involved in a road accident, it’s important to understand how the process works for determining which driver is at fault. Here are six helpful things you should know.
1. Car Accidents Are Usually Caused by Human Error
The cause of the car accident can contribute to determining who’s at fault.
While things like fallen trees and icy roads can cause accidents, most car accidents are caused by human error, such as driving above speed limits or being too fatigued to drive correctly.
Of course, negligence and recklessness also play a big role in car accidents. For example, drivers who cause road accidents could be distracted by cell phones or be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you’re involved in a car accident, you should seek advice from an experienced attorney who can help to determine whether you are at fault or not and assist in fair settlements and court cases.
2. Insurance Companies Could Determine Who Is At-fault
In cases where everyone involved in the car accident files claims with their insurance companies, the insurers will investigate to decide which driver, or drivers, is responsible for the accident.
If the other driver is found to be at fault, your insurer will use the process known as subrogation to gain reimbursement for your claim from the other driver’s insurance company.
3. A Jury Could Determine Who Is At-fault
To understand who’s at fault in a car accident, it can sometimes be necessary to go to court. A jury will then decide who is responsible.
However, few cases actually end up in court. Usually, insurance companies and lawyers can determine fault and reach settlements outside of court.
If your case does go to court, the state’s laws regarding negligence will determine how much can be paid out to cover medical expenses and car damage.
4. The Difference Between No-fault and At-fault States
The way insurance claims are handled depends on whether you’re in a no-fault state or an at-fault state.
In no-fault states, drivers are required to have Personal Injury Protection on their auto insurance policies. PIP helps to pay for your medical costs after being involved in a car accident that causes injuries, regardless of who causes the accident.
At-fault states do not require drivers to have PIP. Instead, the at-fault driver’s car insurance coverage helps to pay for injury claims.
In both at-fault states and no-fault states, property damage claims are paid on an at-fault basis. So, if your car is damaged by another driver’s fault, his or her coverage can help to pay for the repairs.
5. State Laws Regarding Negligence
While no-fault and at-fault state laws affect how car insurance claims are paid, state laws also define what constitutes negligence. And that affects how the fault is determined and how the claims are paid out.
Sometimes, car accidents are not solely the fault of one driver. In such cases, insurance adjusters or a jury will need to determine how much responsibility each party carries. That will then affect how much each driver’s insurance company is responsible for paying out.
The percentage of blame to each party will be based on the precise details of the car accident. Each state’s laws vary concerning negligence. States could use one of the following three approaches.
In states that use comparative negligence approaches, you could recoup expenses related to your car accident from the other driver based on his or her percentage of responsibility for causing the accident.
Let’s say the other driver is found to be 70% at fault. That means the driver’s insurance company can pay up to 70% of your medical expenses and car repair costs. Your own insurer would pay the remaining 30%.
Modified Comparative Negligence
When a state uses the modified comparative negligence approach, you’re not able to recoup expenses from the other driver if you’re found to be more than 50% or 51% (depending on the state) at fault for the car accident.
In such cases, you would be required to pay for both your medical bills and car repair costs, even if the other driver is partially at-fault for the accident.
In states that use contributory negligence, also known as pure negligence, you cannot recoup any expenses for medical and repair bills if you’re found to bear any amount of responsibility for a car accident.
So, even if it was found that you were only 5% at fault, the other driver’s insurance company wouldn’t pay you.
6. The Police Report Can Help to Determine Fault
When the police arrive at the scene of a car accident, they will first assess whether medical help is needed and ensure everyone is safe.
The next thing the police will do is record the scene. The police will note damage to all vehicles involved in the accident and take photographic evidence.
Often, the simple recording of a car accident scene can make it clear which driver is at fault.
Insurance companies use police reports to help determine responsibility. So, when a police report is filed, it can help you if the other driver decides to sue you for medical injuries and damages.
If no police arrive at the scene of the accident, it’s in your best interests to file a report with the police soon after the accident.
Also, if no police arrive on the accident scene and you’re not seriously injured, ensure you take photographs of the accident scene, including close-ups of license plates and damage as well as wider shots of the scene.
Remember to exchange contact information with the other driver and get witness details too.
Documenting the accident scene and getting the details of the people present can make all the difference in helping insurance companies or a jury determine who is at fault for the car accident.