Insurance company adjusters determine fault in an auto accident after reviewing the police report and other evidence. They may also ask you and the other driver questions about the collision to try to piece together a reliable narrative of what happened. Once they have determined who caused the accident—or if both parties shared fault—they assign percentages of fault to each driver. Depending on your percentage of fault and the laws in your state, you might be able to pursue compensation.
In some states, you may seek compensation even if an adjuster found you partly at fault, while in other states, you cannot. Florida insurance requirements include personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, so residents first have to file a claim with their own insurer, even if the other driver assumed 100 percent of the fault.
Finally, if you do not agree with the insurance company’s assignment of fault, you may speak with a car accident attorney who can put together a case on your behalf to challenge their decision.
Fault in Auto Accidents
If you have ever been in a car accident, you probably have some degree of familiarity with what happens afterward. Typically, if the accident involves bodily injury or property damage, the police come to the scene and write up a report. They will examine the physical evidence at the scene, talk to both drivers and any witnesses, and summarize their interpretation of what happened and who holds responsibility.
The police report, while valuable in the assignment of liability, does not ultimately determine who bears the fault for the accident. Your insurance company may look at the police report and other evidence they deem relevant and assign fault. Your options for pursuing compensation depend on whether you bear full fault, partial fault, or no fault at all. Your options also depend on the laws in your state.
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Types of State Liability Laws
States have different ways of assigning liability for car accidents. Many states, such as Florida, operate under a comparative fault system. Each driver receives a share of the fault based on the degree to which the insurance company investigators believe they contributed to the crash.
If a driver cuts another vehicle off and immediately hits the brakes, causing the other vehicle to rear-end them, the first driver might receive 80% of the blame, and the driver who rear-ended them might bear the other 20% for following too closely. In a comparative negligence state, each driver can go after the other for compensation but may only collect the percentage of their total losses that equals the other driver’s liability share.
Modified comparative negligence states differ. The laws in those states operate like ones in pure comparative negligence states but disqualify drivers from pursuing compensation if their share of liability tops a certain percentage, usually 50 or 51%.
The third type of state liability law involves contributory negligence. Under this system, any degree of liability renders a driver ineligible to pursue compensation from other parties.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
In states that have personal injury protection laws, a car accident victim must first file a claim with their own insurance company, regardless of who shared fault for the collision. PIP states mandate a minimum amount of this type of insurance that drivers must carry. Only after your own insurance company has paid out to that level may you pursue the other party and their insurer for your remaining losses. Florida requires all drivers to carry PIP.
What to Do After a Car Accident
After a car accident, you do not want to make it easier for the other party and their insurance company to hold you liable for the accident. For that reason, you want to say as little as possible, particularly when talking to insurance company representatives. Do not admit fault. Consulting a car accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case may help you get a better idea of your legal options.
A car accident lawyer may also relieve you of the burden of collecting evidence, negotiating with insurance companies, and abiding by any statutes of limitation if your case requires further legal action.
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After a Car Accident, Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC
If you were recently involved in a car accident, an attorney from Ben Crump Law, PLLC may help you no matter how the collision occurred. We may be able to seek the financial recovery that you deserve for any injuries and losses. For a free, no-obligation case evaluation, call us at 800-598-7557.