Have you ever been in an automobile accident and thought that it wasn’t your fault but your insurance company is now surcharging your policy and paid money to the other party? Most people really have very little understanding as to how the legal system works when it comes to classifying “fault” in an auto accident. Insurance companies have little to do with the determination of fault. It is based on the state in which you live and the comparative fault laws that the states’ legal system adheres to.
There are three basic comparative fault systems used in the United States, and they are very different from one another. A few states recognize the “Pure Contributory Negligence” rule where the injured party cannot recover any damages from the other party if it is even 1% at fault. Other states recognize “Pure Comparative Fault” which allows the injured party to recover even if 99 percent at fault. The recovery is reduced however by the damaged party’s degree of fault. Most states recognize the “Modified Comparative Fault” rule. Some of these states have a 50 percent bar rule which says that an injured party cannot recover anything if 50 percent or more at fault, but if 49 percent or less at fault, it can recover, although its recovery is reduced by the degree of fault. The other states have a 51 percent bar rule which means an injured party cannot recover if it is 51 percent or more at fault.
Insurance companies have to address the issue of a party’s ability to recover financially based on the laws of the state in which the accident occurred. If you are traveling out of your home state, auto insurance contracts generally conform to the laws of the state you are traveling in fortunately. There are very few situations where you would be considered 100% not at fault. Generally, only if you were hit by another vehicle while parked or rear-ended while stopped, might you be considered 100% not at fault. When you’re in an auto accident, there could definitely be a “He did this”, “She did that” difference of opinion between the parties involved. The insurance claims adjusters will listen to the various accounts and compare that against the actual damage on the vehicles. They are very good at determining if an accident occurred the way described by looking at the actual damage. Here are some tips on what to do at the scene of the accident to get the greatest accuracy of what really happened:
Locate a witness. This may not always be possible but an unrelated third party can be very helpful to identify what happened.
Take photos. It’s a very good idea to take photos of the damage done to both vehicles at the scene of the accident so that additional damage is not added after the fact. Many carriers have mobile apps that allow you to directly upload those photos to them.
Don’t admit fault. Most accidents are complex. It’s in your best interest to let the adjusters look at all of the information before assigning fault.
Get names and contact information for all passengers in the other vehicle. You would hate to have additional claimants try to make claims for injuries against you that were not even at the scene of the accident.
None of us want to be involved in an accident. There are cars that have to be repaired and possibly injuries to recover from. Stay calm and collect a little bit of additional information to help your insurance company determine as accurately as possible what happened which will ultimately be in everyone’s best interest.