Many auto accidents occur because one or both of the drivers were negligent in some way. If you’ve been involved in an accident, you may have experienced that common moment when everyone is anxiously trying to ascertain who is at fault. Ultimately, the determination of fault will be necessary for the insurance companies to assess which company will pay and how much they will pay.

The Job of the Insurance Adjuster

In many cases, an adjuster from the insurance company will determine fault. Using facts from the police report, witness statements and physical evidence, the adjuster could either determine fault or send the case to court. Some examples of driver behaviors that might influence a determination of guilt include excessive speeds, failure to pay attention, failure to yield right of way, vehicle defects, illegal turns, failure to signal and following too closely. If you or the other driver has broken or neglected to follow any of the rules of the road, there’s a possibility that either of you will be found at fault.

Three Elements of Negligence

In order to prove that a driver was negligent, three elements must be met. These are that the driver was legally required to drive carefully in the situation, proof that the other driver was not reasonably careful and that the conduct of the driver lead to injuries or damage. If the insurance adjuster isn’t able to make this determination, the court system may be involved.

Comparative Liability

In some states, you could be found partially at fault. This is called “comparative liability” and could mean that even if the other driver is found at fault, but you are found to be partially at fault, any money that you might receive could be reduced by the percentage of your own fault. If the insurance adjuster doesn’t make this decision, a judge or a jury will have to determine how to apportion the liability.

Fault-Based and No-Fault States

When fault has been determined, in fault-based states, the insurance company of the person found at fault will often pay for damages, repairs, expenses related to medical care, lost wages and pain and suffering after fault has been determined. In states with no-fault insurance laws, drivers are required to obtain personal injury protection. In these states, the insurance company for each driver will cover medical expenses to a point. Any property damage would be covered by the insurance company of the person found at fault.

What the Determination of Fault Means to You

If you’ve been involved in an accident because two cars merged into the same lane or if you were rear-ended by a driver who was texting, the determination of fault may be very important to you. During this time, it is important for you to protect your legal rights. It may be a good idea to visit an attorney before any fault has been determined.


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