Car accidents are called that for a reason. Very seldom are they intentional. One (or both) drivers is just reckless or careless. Sometimes there are even weather and road conditions that come into play.
The key to finding out which insurance company is going to pay for any physical damages to the cars and personal injuries to the passengers is to determine which driver caused the accident.
It may not always be clear, but here is how to tell who is at fault in a car accident.
How to Tell Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident – The Negligence Factor
Automobile accident laws vary from state to state. It is wise to research and understand the laws for your state before an accident ever happens. That will save confusion and misinformation at a highly stressful moment.
Most states use a negligence system to decide the amount of damages they are willing to pay out. There are a few different types.
Comparative negligence simply means the insurance company will only pay out due to the percentage of fault. Depending on the details, each driver is assigned percentages based on how much they contributed to the accident.
If the insurance adjuster decides both drivers are 50/50 at fault, you will only be able to seek damages of 50% of your total claim.
Modified Comparative Negligence
In the states that use this criteria, it is a little more difficult to receive money from the other insured.
You can only file a claim against the other driver’s insurance if it is determined you are less than 50% at fault.
Pure Contributory Negligence
This is the harshest of insurance laws. Basically, this says you did not contribute at all to the accident.
The only way you can file a claim against the other party is for you not to have done anything wrong at all.
How Do Insurance Companies Determine Fault
Some accidents are clear cut, but often the insurance adjusters have a difficult time deciding who’s at fault. Most drivers give conflicting stories and try to point to the other driver as the reason the accident happened at all.
The police report is where most insurance companies start. When the police are called to an accident scene they are required to do a detailed investigation. They talk to both drivers and even talk to any witnesses they see. They take photos of the scene and the cars. In addition, they are familiar with the roadways, rules, and even weather conditions and experienced in handling accident scenes. The ruling on the police report of fault goes a long way, especially if there were any citations given.
Police reports can be wrong, however, and it is in your best interest to also provide as much proof as you can to your innocence. You should take your own pictures and record your own witness statements. If there were other cars around, something in the road, or any detail that might show you were not the responsible party, you should document and turn over to your insurance company.
On another note, be careful about admitting guilt at the scene. You may believe it is your fault, and you may be very sorry for the incident, but you may also have missed something. Let the police report, the evidence, and the insurance adjusters have the final say in determining fault.
What Are No Fault Claims
There are a few states who have adopted no-fault insurance laws in regards to medical claims. So this means that each driver is responsible to file under their own insurance company for any medical bills and lost wages.
Most drivers that live in these states carry PIP (Personal Injury Protection). This is what kicks in to pay when you are involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault that resulted in bodily injury. There are limits to these policies and you should be aware of them if that is what you currently have.
Also, typically, PIP policies do not cover pain and suffering claims. In the event of a major accident with serious injuries, there are ways to file a liability claim against the other driver. There are certain conditions that must be met, and a specific monetary loss incurred depending on your state laws.
No-fault claims are generally for personal injury claims only, and the insurance company for the driver who is deemed responsible for the accident will pay for the damage to both vehicles.
There are many aspects of an accident that are confusing, especially if you have been injured. It is a good idea to speak with a car accident attorney to determine your next steps.
Will My Car Insurance Rates Go up After an Accident
Unless it is decided that you contributed no fault to an accident, then it is possible your car insurance rates will go up. Depending on the details, it can increase by as much as 31%.
The good news is that is not always the case. If you have had a clean driving record for several years before having an accident, some companies offer accident forgiveness.
If your rates do go up, there may be other incentives applied to offset the higher cost. Check with your agent to see if you qualify for other discounts such as good student, low mileage, military, or bundle packages.
Know the Facts
Getting into an accident is a frustrating and stressful event. This is especially true if there was no negligence on your part.
Insurance companies have a set of rules on how to tell who is at fault in a car accident. Most of those rules depend on the laws of your state.
While you may not be able to change the laws, you can certainly educate yourself on what they are. You should always know your rights. Never let the other party or the insurance company intimidate or ignore you.
If you feel like your voice isn’t being heard, or your interests not protected, it is always a good idea to consult an attorney who specializes in car accidents.