The Blame Game: How Auto Accident Fault is Determined
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UPDATED: Nov 18, 2020
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Its not my fault, it's yours.
If you’re in a car accident, you may believe that the other driver was at fault, and he or she may be equally convinced that you were to blame. Your respective auto insurance companies will investigate your claims and help determine who was at fault.
In most states, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay for vehicle repairs and other expenses such as medical bills and lost wages. A few states follow a “no-fault” system, which means that each insurance company will pay for its customer’s medical expenses up to a certain amount. Vehicle damage is still fault-based, however, even in these states.
Types of negligence The state in which you live also determines the type of negligence — or fault — that helps decide who pays. Generally, there are three types of negligence:
If you and the other driver are both at fault, the damages are paid proportionally. So if you’re deemed to be 75 percent at fault, you and your insurance company will be financially responsible for 75 percent of the damages.
In some states, you can only seek damages if you’re found to be less than 50 percent at fault.
In some states, just a little bit of blame will cost you. Even if you were just 10 percent at fault, you’ll have to pay for your own expenses.
Helping prove your case
Proving fault in an auto accident is key to recovering damages. These tips can help you present the evidence needed to show your insurance company and your attorney, if you seek legal representation.
Call the police
The police will file a report based on what both drivers say, the physical evidence at the scene, and witness statements. If you and the other driver each blame the other, the police report will be an unbiased document. It also contains valuable contact information for the other driver and witnesses.
Don’t admit fault
Don’t apologize or admit fault at the scene or afterward. Tell the truth about the facts, but let the insurance company reach an objective conclusion about who was at fault.
Gather all the evidence you can at the scene, assuming you’re not in immediate need of medical attention. Use your cell phone to take photos of the cars’ position as well as close-ups of the damage. Also get any information you can from the other driver and witnesses, in case anyone leaves before the police arrive.
Contact your insurance company
Notify your insurance company as soon as possible about your accident, and give them the information you have. The other driver’s insurance company may contact you, but you may want to seek the advice of an attorney first.
Continue to keep good records
Keep a detailed record of who you talk to and when, including conversations with insurance companies and attorneys. If you seek medical treatment after your accident, also keep records of any diagnosis and treatment, as well as any wages you’ve lost because of your accident.
Will your insurance rates go up?
If you’re at fault for an accident, your insurance rates may go up, but this is far from automatic. A number of other factors - including the details of your particular policy, your driving history and the cost of the claim – will be used to determine if your insurance rates go up.