If you’re involved in a car accident, a critical factor will be each driver is determined to be at fault. Who determines fault in your car accident will depend on the circumstances of the accident. First, both insurance adjusters will attempt to come to an agreement regarding who was at fault. If there’s a disagreement regarding fault, then it can up in arbitration, where a neutral party determines fault. If the case ends up going to court, then a judge or jury will determine who was at fault.
Fault laws and legal liability vary from state to state. A state can be either a fault state, which is also known as a tort state, or a no-fault state. The majority of states are fault states, which means that when a driver is at fault, he is liable for the other party’s damages as a result of the accident. His insurance company will pay up to his policy limits for the other party’s damages, but if this doesn’t cover those damages, the other party may take the driver to court for their damages.
In no-fault states, a driver’s own insurance policy covers their personal injury claims regardless of who was at fault, which means they may be required to have personal injury protection coverage. Any property damage still uses the fault system, where the driver who was at fault for the accident pays for damages.
States also have different laws regarding negligence. In a state with pure contributory negligence, you’re unable to receive compensation for an accident from the other driver’s insurance company if you were in any way at fault for the accident. Even if you’re only 10 percent responsible and the other driver is 90 percent responsible, you still won’t receive any compensation.
Modified comparative negligence means that you can only receive compensation from the other driver’s insurance company if you are under a certain fault percentage. For example, a state may require that you be under 50 percent at fault for the accident to receive compensation.
In comparative negligence states, you can receive compensation in proportion to the other driver’s degree of fault. For example, if the other driver was 60 percent at fault, then you can receive compensation for 60 percent of your damages through that driver’s insurance company.
There are several factors that insurance adjusters, arbitrators, judges and juries use to determine which driver was at fault in an accident, or the degrees of fault in a comparative negligence situation. These include any statements the drivers made, witness accounts of the accident, any camera footage available of the accident and the damage to each car.
It’s important for drivers never to admit guilt at the scene of an accident, or even apologize. If you do, it’s very likely that you’ll be found at fault, even if that wasn’t actually the case. That’s why it’s best to simply exchange information.
In many car accident claims, it’s difficult to determine which party was at fault. If both driver’s claim the other was at fault, then their testimonies essentially cancel each other out. At that point, it depends on what other evidence is available, whether that’s an impartial witness who saw the entire accident unfold, dash camera footage from one of the driver’s vehicles or what the damage on each car indicates about how the crash took place.
In many cases, a driver ends up being found at fault because of something he said during a statement to an insurance adjuster or a police officer, such as an admission of breaking a traffic law. For this reason, you should avoid making statements to insurance adjusters and keep any statements you do make to other people short and to the point.