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  • How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

    How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

    What should I do after a car accident?

    An accident, by definition, is unexpected and unintentional. No one can truly prepare for an automobile accident. Car accidents are scary, dangerous, and sometimes even fatal. No one wants to get in a car accident, but no one knows just when they will occur.

    In all likelihood, everyone will find themselves in a situation involving a car accident at least once in their life. Maybe it’s a fender bender, or perhaps it’s something worse. Either way, you are going to need to know what to do, should that day come.

    It is essential to educate yourself as to the proper procedures following a car accident. That way, no matter how much adrenaline may be coursing through your body, you can remain calm knowing what step you should take next.

    Seeking legal representation is a crucial step if you are involved in a car accident.

    In the unfortunate case of a car accident, you’ll need to hire the best car accident attorney to obtain the automobile accident compensation and justice you deserve.

    For more information, read our guide on The 6 Most Important Things to do After a Car Accident.

    How do insurance companies investigate a car accident claim?

    The most important factor car accident insurance companies use in determining what actually happened is the police report. Individual claims from each party involved may conflict with other information or contain personal bias.

    Therefore, insurers use the official car accident police report as a cornerstone for figuring out fault. Additionally, insurers also use any evidence gathered by you to support any claims of fault or deniability further.

    Taking photos of the scene and all cars involved, gathering information from other drivers and witnesses, and any other pertinent info can help insurers properly assess the situation.

    One thing you do not want to do when cooperating with the police and insurance companies is to admit you are at fault. Even if you think you may be the at-fault driver, you may be unaware of other factors that could be the real cause of your accident.

    Give only facts and relevant information and let the insurers come to their own objective conclusions.

    Related: What is the average car accident settlement in Missouri?

    How do insurance companies determine fault and establish liability?

    The majority of U.S. states follow a fault-based system. Missouri is an at-fault car accident state, for instance. In this system, the at-fault driver is usually responsible for repairs, expenses, and losses through their insurer’s liability coverage.

    However, insurers usually determine fault via the state’s legal definition of negligence. There are three main types of negligence used to help assess fault in at-fault states.

    1. Comparative Negligence: With comparative negligence, both parties can be found partially at fault for a given accident. With strict comparative negligence, your percentage at-fault directly determines how much compensation you can seek from the other insurance company. For example, if you are found 70% at fault for an accident, you could still seek up to 30% of your losses to be recouped.
    2. Modified Comparative Negligence: Some states use a modified form of comparative negligence, which limits your ability you recoup loses. For example, Illinois drivers can only seek retribution for their losses if they are found to be less than 50% at fault.
    3. Contributory Negligence: This form of negligence requires a driver to be 100% faultless to recoup any damages. For states with a pure contributory definition of negligence, determining fault is all or nothing. Even if you are only determined to be 5% at fault for an accident, pure contributory negligence states you cannot recoup damages.

    Factors that determine the amount of car accident compensation you will receive

    Severity of Injuries and Medical Expenses

    The extent of your injuries is a critical factor that affects the compensation you can receive. Severe injuries that lead to long-term disabilities or significant medical expenses usually result in higher compensation. The type and duration of medical treatment you require play a role in determining the compensation amount. Medical records and bills are crucial pieces of evidence in establishing the value of your claim.

    Property Damage

    The damage to your vehicle and other property involved in the accident is another factor considered during the compensation process. Proper documentation and assessment of the property damage are essential for a fair settlement.

    Lost wages due to missed time at work

    If the injuries from the accident caused you to miss work, you can claim compensation for the wages lost during your recovery period. In severe cases, where injuries lead to a reduced ability to work or a disability, you may be entitled to compensation for the loss of future earning capacity.

    Policy Limits and Car Insurance

    The insurance policy limits of the at-fault party can affect the maximum amount of compensation available to you. If the at-fault driver is uninsured or has inadequate insurance coverage, your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage can come into play to provide additional compensation. 

    Statute of Limitations

    Each state has a specific statute of limitations within which you must file your compensation claim. Missouri’s statute of limitations for car accidents is five years.  Failing to meet this deadline could result in the forfeiture of your right to seek compensation.

    How your injury attorney plays a role in the compensation you receive

    Another factor that can heavily influence the outcome is the quality of legal representation. Hiring an experienced car accident attorney who specializes in personal injury cases can significantly improve your chances of success.

    They will have a deep understanding of the specific laws and regulations pertaining to car accidents, and they will know how to build a strong case on your behalf.

    Will insurance still pay for my car if it is my fault?

    There are, in fact, some states that follow a no-fault system of insurance laws. These states may require you to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP). With no-fault systems, each party’s insurer pays damages up to a certain threshold. Property damage, however, is still fault-based.

    Nevertheless, whether or not insurance pays for damages to your car if it is your fault depends on your coverage. Liability coverage only pays for the other party’s losses, leaving you responsible for any personal medical expenses or damage costs. Full coverage, as implied by its name, covers the at-fault damages for all parties involved.

    Even if you are at fault and your insurance is required to pay the damages, this doesn’t mean your insurance rates will go up. Insurers often look at your accident history, previous claims, driving record, and situation circumstances before deciding to raise your rates.