No matter the circumstances, being involved in a car accident is a traumatic, taxing, and expensive ordeal. That is why there is such a robust auto accident insurance system in the US. It is designed to protect drivers and passengers who are not at fault while discouraging reckless driving behavior in others. But how do insurers determine who is at fault after a car accident?
When the average insurance payout is now hovering at around $24,000, the stakes for finding out are high. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is “Fault” After a Car Accident?
To determine fault is to assign blame. The “at-fault party” is the individual or entity deemed to be responsible for an incident or accident. It is essential to know which party in a crash is at fault, as it will be that party’s insurer that is responsible for covering the damages.
Sometimes, determining fault is straightforward. If an individual is drunk driving, or the municipality forgot to put up roadwork signs, then the fault is clear. However, the picture is often less clear-cut than this.
Sometimes, both parties might be at fault. In this case, insurers and lawyers will try to determine if one party is mostly at fault. If this is the case, a party determined to be 51% at fault will still have to pay 100% of the damages.
This is why it is essential to hire an attorney after a car accident or to consult legal help as soon as possible.
How Is Fault Determined?
There are several ways to determine fault, all of which involve some investigation and argumentation.
The police report may determine this, especially if laws around dangerous driving were believed to have been broken. Photos of the accident might also be used to build a case against the other party. There may also be interviews.
This is why it is so important to lawyer up in the event of a car accident. Always hire a local personal injury lawyer that knows local traffic laws and knows how to navigate the local system, so that you are not unfairly found to be at fault for an accident.
Of course, sometimes the case is so clear-cut that the drivers will decide at the scene of the accident who is at fault. Remember, if you admit fault then you are liable for the damages.
What About a “No-Fault” Accident?
Sometimes, there is no one to blame. This is what is called a “no-fault” accident.
Many states across the US include no-fault insurance in their mandatory insurance laws. In this case, both parties will have their damages covered by insurance if neither is found to be at fault.
However, some states do not have no-fault insurance, meaning that it’s possible for either party to receive damages in the event of a no-fault accident. If you want to learn more about what does no fault state mean or need legal advice regarding a car accident, it’s recommended to consult with a qualified attorney or insurance professional in that jurisdiction.
Knowing Is Half the Battle
After an accident, the last thing anyone wants to think about is litigation.
However, acting quickly to document evidence and seek legal help will reduce the chances of you being incorrectly found to be at fault after a car accident that someone else caused.
When it comes to your rights, knowing is half the battle. You can consult our expertly-curated how-tos and explainers for more essential need-to-knows when living in America today.