- February 8, 2022
- Car Accidents
How Do You Know Who is at Fault in a Car Accident?
While everyone involved might have their own opinion about what happened in a car accident and who was at fault, the actual first determination is made by any insurance companies involved. Their adjusters take a trained approach to examining all the details of a car accident, from the parties’ statements to the police reports to the mechanic’s reports, and then they work with counterparts to arrive at a conclusion of fault. However, that conclusion is specific to what the insurance company needs to determine and limit liability per their contract with the covered driver. It does not address the totality of responsibility in an accident, especially when the damages exceed policy coverage.
If you wonder how do you know who is at fault in a car accident, there are additional considerations. Depending on what state a driver is in, the state law could make everyone involved partially responsible by default, simply because of how the law defines accidents under certain circumstances. Regardless of what adjusters might conclude, the state law says otherwise and has to be followed. In other states, no such responsibility law exists, and parties have to either agree through insurers or pursue the matter legally.
Typical Scenarios that May Help Determine Who Is at Fault
It’s extremely rare to have a car accident where one party is 100 percent responsible for the event. In the high majority of cases, one human action triggers another, and some proportion of fault is caused by all involved. However, the key to determining fault is then figuring out who should be paying for the costs and to what extent. That’s where a lot of the work is involved, as most parties aren’t lining up to be the first to pay out, and that definitely includes their insurance companies.
A police report tends to be a desirable objective factor in serious accidents as the police have no real stake in the outcome of the decision. So, their analysis of what occurred during an accident, at least from a professional visual perspective, matters quite a bit. With this report in mind, how do insurance companies determine who’s at fault? In fact, many insurance companies use the police report as a definitive observation, and then they fill in the gaps with witness statements as well as the medical and mechanic’s reviews in their respective roles. The combination then becomes the first decision of fault determination.
However, parties involved are not legally required to accept the insurance companies’ decisions automatically. They can argue otherwise through an attorney. This may be the more advantageous position to be in, especially when the insurance adjusters’ mutual decision is extremely far off from what the injured party saw, heard, experienced and knows.
Other State Legal Dynamics Can Come into Play
As noted earlier, different state rules can affect the outcome of a car accident. In addition to finding everyone at fault regardless of what happened, known as “comparative fault,” other state laws can include enhancements depending on the circumstances of an accident. For example, cutting off a vehicle and then quickly hitting the brakes to stop, causing the vehicle behind to impact from the rear, could give the driver who did the cutting-off an automatic 80 percent of responsibility. The rear driver would get 20 percent by default because of being too close to stop safely.
Alternatively, a “modified comparative negligence” law would block parties from suing back or pushing cost away if their responsibility is more than 51 percent by determination of the facts and details.
Finally, there is “contributory negligence,” which is fairly extreme in blocking any responsible party from suing anyone else if they are found to have had any kind of fault in a car accident.
What You Should Do if in a Car Accident
The first priority if you have any control over circumstances is to make sure that your medical situation is taken care of. Refuse to talk to anyone until you have been seen by a doctor if you are hurt. If you must talk to someone, such as a police officer, focus on your identification and providing your insurance policy. If you are asked anything further, state that you want to talk to an attorney first.
No one can force you to talk about what occurred in an accident, especially when you might be hurt. Also, ignore supposed witnesses who say they saw everything. Most of the time, they actually see very little in terms of actual details and facts but may share information in a way that implies they did.
How an Attorney Can Help You Get the Settlement You Deserve
Let Our Car Accident Lawyer Handle the Insurer for You
When you’re ready and recovered from immediate injuries, your next step should be to consult with a car accident lawyer, especially before accepting anything from your own insurance company. Attorney Lakota Denton can provide you legal guidance at every step in the process. It is important to know that he has a successful record helping clients get the compensation they deserve. When you work with a skilled attorney, you improve your opportunity to obtain the maximum settlement possible.
If you decide to start the process on your own, you can still file a claim with them and get paperwork started, but don’t accept any claim settlements until your attorney has reviewed all of the circumstances first. That way, you’ll know what all your options are, not just your insurance company’s perspective. In addition, you’ll also have a good idea of what may not be covered by your carrier and could still be recovered, as well as your obligations within your state.
Remember What is Important, Even Right After the Accident
So, to recap the critical questions:
1. How do you determine who is at fault in a car accident?
2. How do you know who is at fault in a car accident?
3. How do insurance companies determine who’s at fault?
It is best not to determine anything right after an accident. Focus first on your own medical situation and next on getting proper legal representation. Your insurance company, once you file a claim, will provide its initial determination, and then you decide with your attorney if that makes sense or if additional steps need to be taken. Rarely does taking the first settlement offer represent your true needs, especially with medical injuries involved. Be patient, make decisions when rested and not suffering in pain, and trust your attorney to work on your behalf. Let Lakota Denton handle the legal work so that you can focus on healing from your injuries. Call our team today at 828-333-5996 to discuss your case.