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How Do You Know Who Is Liable for a Car Accident?

Filing a car accident claim is not that challenging as compared to determining who is liable for your car accident. In some situations, there may be multiple parties or drivers involved, making it difficult to decide who to pursue personal injury claims against.
CALC lists award-winning personal injury law firms with decades of experience handling car accident cases and securing successful verdicts for our injured clients in car accidents.

As complex as car insurance procedures may sound, talking to our personal injury attorneys can help you determine who is at fault and pursue legal action to recover compensation for your loss.

No-Fault and At-fault Car Accident

In states that follow the no-fault law, a no-fault car accident can happen, which means that regardless of who is at fault, each driver’s personal injury protection (PIP) pays for the medical expenses.
There are sixteen states with no-fault laws, and to drive legally in these states, you must have PIP in addition to car insurance.

Although PIP covers medical expenses regardless of fault in no-fault states, it is important to remember that the insurance company pays property damages according to the degree of fault. If an accident leaves your vehicle in a damaged state, the negligent driver’s insurance company may help pay for the property damage claims.

In states where there is a comparative negligence law, an at-fault car accident can happen in which the insurance companies decides who gets what based on the degree of fault.

These are states that do not have PIP, and injured drivers must file claims for medical expenses and property damage against the other driver’s insurer.

If the other driver is innocent and you’re the one at fault, they can file a claim against your insurance company.

How Does an Insurance Company Determine Fault?

An insurance company will assign claim adjusters to a case to determine fault according to the state regulations, police reports, accident details, and other relevant pieces of evidence.
In no-fault states, there is no need to determine fault for medical expenses as they are typically covered under PIP. But for property damage, the insurer needs to assign fault according to the events that unfolded a few seconds prior to the accident.

At times, a car accident may involve multiple parties instead of one, in which case the insurance companies determine fault after going through the accident details and assign a percentage of blame accordingly to each party involved.
In at-fault states or states with comparative negligence law, the insurer will examine the evidence to determine the degree of fault.
For example, a speeding driver crashes into your vehicle from behind after you make a sudden lane switch. The insurers may determine that the overspeeding driver was 60% to blame for the accident while you were 40% responsible.

However, the degree of fault determines how much compensation should go to the injured party. If you’re 40% responsible for an accident that caused you $100,000, the insurer will pay you $60,000 for your loss. You or your insurance company would have to cover the remaining 40% of the damage.

There are three different types of negligence laws, and they are:

• Comparative negligence.
• Modified comparative negligence.
• Contributory negligence.
Comparative Negligence

If your state follows the comparative negligence law, then you have the right to recover accident-related expenses from the other driver’s insurance company based on their degree of fault.
Alaska, California, Kentucky, New York, and Rhode Island are some of the 12 states that use comparative negligence law.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Modified comparative negligence law is slightly different than the comparative law we just discussed.
Drivers who are more than 50% responsible for an accident will have to pay their medical expenses and repair bills in states that use modified comparative law.

Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Iowa are some of the 33 states that use modified comparative negligence law.

Contributory Negligence

States that follow the contributory negligence law do not allow drivers to recoup any expenses if they bear any fault.
Even the slightest fault for the accident caused in states that use contributory negligence will eliminate your right to recover compensation from the other party.

For example, if you’re 5% at fault for an accident in states that use contributory negligence law, you will have to pay from your pocket for the damages.

A total of six states follow the contributory negligence law, and these include:

• Alabama
• District of Columbia
• Maryland
• North Carolina
• South Dakota
• Virginia.

The amount you can recover after an accident depends on the state laws and the terms of your and the other driver’s insurance policies.

What if Someone is Driving Your Car and Crashes?

According to the Insurance Information Institution, in many states, your car insurance is also your primary insurance, which means it’ll assist in covering collisions and property damage if another driver crashes your car.

These are some coverages that can assist you if someone else drives your car and gets involved in an accident, and these include:

• Collision coverage: This is a crash coverage that helps pay for the property damage (car repairs).
• Auto-liability coverage: This type of insurance coverage aids in paying medical bills for another person injured while driving your car. It is different from the liability coverage you have, as that will only cover your medical expenses or property damage.
• Medical payments coverage: This coverage kicks in and pays for medical bills when another driver drives your vehicle and crashes it.

That said, it is important to know that there are exceptions to how your insurer could operate. Don’t simply assume that your insurance company will take care of the damage if a relative causes a car crash.
Some insurance policies must explicitly mention names for the policy to cover that particular person. Other insurance policies will only protect you as the car owner to a certain extent.

However, if your car’s driver is not the one who caused the accident, then there is no need to worry as the negligent car owner’s insurance company should cover damages to the driver and you.

State regulations differ, and it is crucial to read the insurance policy before buying one to learn what the policy protects and to what extent.

What to Do After a Car Accident?

After a car accident, the other party’s insurance company will reach out to you to get your side of the story.
However, they’re actually trying to get you to say things that they can later use against you. It is best to say as little as possible and reach out to a car accident lawyer to learn your rights.

You can also try to collect as much evidence as you can while you’re at the accident scene. Take pictures of the damaged vehicles from all angles, and the road for any skid marks, nearby traffic lights, or road signs. These can help your car accident attorney recreate the accident scene and determine the at-fault party.

After an accident, you may suffer injuries and may not be in a position to speak to witnesses or gather evidence. Don’t worry. At CALC, we have an investigative team that assists in gathering evidence, collecting police reports, and reaching out to witnesses and medical experts to strengthen your case.

If you suffered injuries from a car accident that was not your fault, contact us for a free consultation with one of our California personal injury attorneys. An accident can cause a lot of stress and even affect your quality of life depending on the severity of the injuries. Let our personal injury lawyer associates deal with the entire legal process and handle the insurance companies to recover compensation on your behalf while you rest.

Contact us now for legal advice on your case with a local lawyer.

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