Did you know that six million car accidents occur in the United States every year? Despite the frequency with which they occur, auto accidents are stressful and confusing events.
Because of this, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who caused the accident. Both drivers may have a different story about what occurred.
This can make the claims process a nightmare. So, is there any way to find out? In this article, we’ll help you learn how to tell who is at fault in a car accident.
How to Tell Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident?
When you get in a car accident, the first thing you should do is make sure everyone is safe. Over 29 million people go to the emergency room after accidents every year. So, in many cases, this will sometimes take precedence over finding out who’s at fault.
Regardless of the severity of the accident, you should always call the police in the event of an accident. There are different authorities for determining fault, but the police are the first individuals to do so.
Police officers will provide the initial report on the accident. These reports include things like getting statements from the individuals involved, taking pictures, and writing down notes from eye witness individuals.
If one of the individuals involved in the crash is intoxicated, then the police will note this detail. In some cases, they also make a subsequent arrest. It’s important to note that the police report doesn’t determine who’s at fault.
However, it does provide the initial evidence for determining who caused it. The fault of the car accident is determined by the insurance company. The insurance company will follow up on the police report by assigning an investigator to the case.
This individual will contact the people involved, visit the spot of the accident, and analyze the evidence collected in the police report.
At the end of an investigation, the insurance company will make a decision about which parties are at fault. However, their decision isn’t final. If you disagree with the investigation, then you can appeal their decision in court.
What is an At-Fault Determination Law?
One thing that makes determining car accident fault confusing is the different state laws. The state that you live in determines what your insurance provider will cover. The majority of states follow an at-fault determination.
This type of law states the driver at fault will pay for both the injury costs and the vehicle damage costs. If the person is insured, then the insurance company will cover most or all of these costs.
For example, let’s say you crash into the rear end of a car at a stoplight. You break the victim’s bumper and cause them to develop a concussion. With an at-fault determination, you would need to pay for both a new bumper and their hospital bills.
If you’re insured, then make sure the scene is properly documented for your insurance company. Then, file a claim for both the property damage and the injury damage.
Otherwise, you may be pinned with most of the costs surrounding the accident. Also, keep in mind that injured individuals can also pursue legal action outside of insurance claims.
If you experience a serious injury from collision, then make sure that you follow all these steps.
What is a No-Fault Determination Law?
Sixteen states in the United States currently have no-fault determination laws. In these states, individuals that get a car insurance policy must also get PIP. PIP stands for personal injury protection.
This type of protection pays for your injuries in the event of an accident — it doesn’t matter who caused it. However, this doesn’t mean that states with no-fault law don’t care about who caused the accident.
At-fault laws are still applied to personal property damage. So, if you crash into another car and hurt someone, then you will still need to pay for the vehicle damage. However, you won’t need to worry about funding their hospital bills.
Can Both Drivers Be at Fault?
Often when we think of automobile accidents, we have a black and white mentality. Someone is the victim and someone else caused it. While this scenario does occur often, it’s important to remember that both parties can be at fault for an accident.
For example, imagine a car tailgating a slower car, trying to make them speed up. In retaliation, the slower car slams on their brakes and causes the tailgater to rear-end them.
Both parties here are partly responsible — the tailgater for driving too close to the slow car, and the slow car for creating a dangerous driving situation. As you can see, there are many potential shades of gray when it comes to accidents.
So how do you determine insurance claims when both people are at fault? How an insurance provider will assign liability is determined by the specific state laws where you’re insured.
We’ll cover them in this section. But first, we need to learn more about the concept of negligence.
Comparative negligence state laws break down the fault into a percentage. In cases like these an insurance agent will examine the case and determine how much blame to place on you and how much to place on the other driver.
This percentage determines how much money you get recoup from the other driver. For example, let’s say that the other driver is 70 percent, while you’re responsible for the other 30 percent.
In this case, the insurance company would cover 70 percent of your vehicle damage and hospital bills. However, you would be responsible for paying the other 30 percent. Here is a list of the states that use the comparative negligence laws:
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
Contributory negligence state laws are much more strict than comparative negligence. In this type of scenario, you forfeit any claims if you’re in any way responsible for the accident.
This is true even if the percentage of fault is as low as five percent. So, if the insurance agent found that you had any blame in causing the accident, then you forfeit any recoup expenses. Here is a list of the states that use contributory negligence laws:
- District of Columbia
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
Modified Comparative Negligence
As its name suggests, a modified comparative negligence law works in much the same way as comparative negligence. However, it only works if you are 50 percent or less at fault.
So, if you caused 65 percent of the accident, then you forfeit any recoup expenses. But, if you’re 30 percent responsible, then the insurance provider will cover 30 percent of your vehicle damage and hospital bills.
Here is a list of the states that use modified comparative negligence laws:
- North Dakota
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Will My Insurance Rates Go Up If I’m at Fault?
Unfortunately, most of the time your insurance rates will rise if you were at fault in the accident. This is because the insurance company views you as more of a liability.
As such, your rates will rise. However, this isn’t always a sure thing. In some cases, your insurance company will look into your driving record. If it was a minor accident, or if they offer accident forgiveness, then your rates may stay the same.
What Should I Do If a Police Officer Doesn’t Show Up?
In some states, police officers will not show up to car accidents unless people are hurt, or the wreckage is obstructing the road. So what do you do in these scenarios? If this happens, then take pictures of the accident.
Make sure to take pictures of both the accident itself and the surrounding location. Then, exchange relevant information with the other driver. This should include their insurance card, driver’s license, cell phone, email, and license plate number.
If you can, you should also try to get statements from eyewitnesses. Then, go to the local police station or DMV and fill out an accident report. You can submit this to your insurance provider to begin the claims process.
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We hope this article helped you learn how to tell who is at fault in a car accident. We know that even minor accidents can be hectic and traumatic events. But, as long as you keep a cool head and follow our advice, then you will be alright.
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