Many car accidents are quite traumatic and it can be difficult to keep your cool if each driver involved points a finger at the other.
If you have been hit, or your car was damaged, you may have grounds to file a claim for compensation. The decision regarding who was responsible and whether damages should be paid is dependent on an analysis of the available evidence. This decision can be made by an insurer or left up to the court.
Following the accident, it is important that you concentrate on ensuring each and every passenger’s injuries are attended to first and foremost. After you have done so, if you find that you are still at the crash scene waiting, it is important that you collect whatever evidence you possibly can because it could help you in a future claim.
What Happens When No One Is At Fault For a Car Accident?
Even if more than one person was at fault in a car accident, compensation claims can still be made. The way compensation is decided depends on the state where the accident took place. Some states (e.g., Virginia) do not allow anyone who was even slightly at fault to obtain compensation. Conversely, in other states (e.g., California), it is the opposite. More specifically, compensation in these states is allotted according to a percentage determination of fault. For example, if a driver was determined to be 10% at fault, then any compensation awarded to them would be deducted by that percentage—which is 10% in this example.
In many other states, a modified comparative fault system is used. As you might have expected, a modified comparative fault system lies somewhere between the two systems discussed above.
Basically, the modified comparative fault system holds that if you were determined to be 50% or more at fault, then you cannot claim any compensation at all. However, if you were determined to be less than 50% at fault, then you could obtain a percentage of the compensation you claimed minus the percentage of fault under this system.
How is Fault Determined?
In car accidents, fault is always based on the available evidence and is not based on hearsay. This is precisely why it is very important for you to obtain any evidence you possibly can immediately after a crash. Suitable evidence could include any combination of the following:
- photos showing damage to the vehicles, crash scene, injuries;
- eye witness statements;
- surveillance camera footage (if available);
- police report;
- damage report to vehicle made by car repair yard;
- doctor’s medical assessment of injuries;
- any other medical assessment made of injuries caused by the crash.
Who Determines Fault in a Car Accident?
The two main determiners of car accident fault are:
- the insurers;
- a court.
Typically, if the evidence is clear cut and straightforward, the at-fault driver’s insurer will not have any reason to not make an insurance payment. However, if the evidence is not so clear or their client’s version of the accident is quite different from that of the claimant, the insurer may decide to challenge the claim. Again, this is why evidence is so important.
A personal injury (PI) attorney can help you prepare a better case with the proper evidence, especially if the compensation amount claimed is substantial.
When there is shared fault involved, an insurer may use the state’s fault laws to make a determination about how much compensation to pay. If you have an attorney and dispute the insurer’s decision, then the attorney may help to negotiate a satisfactory settlement based on the available evidence and the comparative fault laws in place. Generally, both insurers and PI attorneys will try and negotiate a settlement without having to go to court because going to court can be a very expensive option. However, if it becomes apparent that there is ultimately no way forward in these settlement negotiations, it would then be necessary to go to court as presenting the case in front of a judge would likely the only viable option left available to decide on a compensation claim at this point.
Get Help with Your Car Accident Claim
When your version of who was at fault in a car accident is challenged, it can be incredibly frustrating. However, in many states, a compensation claim can still be made even when there is shared fault. A car accident attorney can help you negotiate a settlement.
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