Knowing Who Is at Fault After an Accident

Auto Accident Lawyer

People often use the terms liability and fault as blame indicators and shame drivers. However, while these terms connote responsibility, the words also only suggest the fault in legal terms and not in intent. For instance, a driver hits an icy patch and skids into the back of your car. The driver is technically at fault and liable for the damages, but they did not intend to hit you. Therefore, it is crucial to remove the shame of such terms in favor of understanding and determining fault from a legal perspective.

Determining Fault

While you may know with no doubt that the accident was not your fault, your insurer will probably not take your word for it. They will need to review the evidence and findings of the official police report before deciding on claims and potential coverage. Also, keep in mind that anything you say at the scene, especially to police officers, can make it into the final report. Therefore, avoid admitting any responsibility at the scene, even partially. Let the evidence and the findings speak for themselves. Any admission made at the scene can hurt your potential suit if you aim to seek restitution and damages.

Negligence Rules

Negligence, in this case, refers to the amount of blame or responsibility you share in the accident. Depending on your state, three types of negligence may affect your claim and the damages you can seek.

  • Contributory negligence: Contributory negligence is a straightforward way of looking at fault. A person is responsible for the accident, or they aren’t. If one person is not to blame, then both parties are at-fault, meaning that each is responsible for their own damages. To recoup your losses, you must be blameless.
  • Comparative negligence: Comparative negligence, alternatively, allows drivers to recoup a percentage of their losses, dependent on their portion of responsibility. For example, when changing lanes, you are rear-ended by a speeding driver. While investigators find the speeding driver 70% at fault, they also determine that you are 30% at fault. Therefore, you can seek restitution for up to 70% of your losses.
  • Modified comparative negligence: Modified comparative negligence requires drivers to meet a certain threshold before they can make a claim on another driver’s insurance. For example, some states will not allow you to recoup damages unless investigators deem you less than 50% responsible for the collision.

Police and insurers determine who is at fault. However, that determination does not express intentional neglect. Also worth noting is that motorist can share the blame for an accident. Therefore, before being too quick to sue, find a car accident attorney, and discuss how your state defines negligence and the fault process.

Source: Auto Accident Lawyer Canoga Park, CA, Barry P. Goldberg

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