Because car accident are so frequent, there is a very solid jurisprudence on such cases and the law provides clear guidelines on fault determination. Let’s review some of the legal aspects of fault determination.
Car insurance in most States is fault-based, so the at-fault driver’s insurer typically helps pay for repairs, medical expenses, and other losses associated with the car accident. Most insurance companies determine fault based on the legal definition of negligence in that particular state. For this reason, it’s a good idea to meet with a personal injury attorney following a car accident.
Understanding comparative negligence
Comparative negligence is the comparison of your percentage of fault in the accident to the other driver’s percentage of fault. This means you can still seek compensation even if you were only partially at fault for the car accident. A personal injury attorney understands whether your insurance company will follow the strictest form of comparative negligence. If your State (ours is Arizona) allows comparative negligence, you can only seek damages in proportion to your degree of responsibility for the accident.
As the police’s official version of events is considered more reliable, the police report will play a key role in helping your insurers assess fault. Insurers evaluate the police report to understand who erred in the car accident, so this report makes a big difference in your ability to collect compensation. In addition, your insurer will use evidence you gather at the scene to calculate both drivers’ degree of fault. Your insurer will look at photos and reports from the other witnesses.
Affecting insurance rates
When the police arrive at the scene, you will be cooperating with them and exchanging information with the other driver (or drivers). Your insurance company will use any statements made during this time to help calculate degree of fault. If you are at fault for the accident, your insurer will look at a number of factors, including your previous driving record and the circumstances surrounding the accident to determine whether or not to raise your rates.
In any case, we recommend you NOT to make a statement indicating you admit fault. Keep only to what you remember of the circumstances of the accident; do not admit fault because such statement could be used against you, and you do not yet know how the other party got involved in the accident either. It is not your responsibility to state whether or not you were at fault in the accident. It is the responsibility of the Police and of the insurance companies to determine this. Never admit fault on the scene of a car accident, just stick to the details you can remember.
Following an auto accident, it can be difficult to find a lawyer you feel you can trust. At Tucson-based Hameroff Law Firm, PC, our personal injury lawyers offer more than a quarter century of experience. Call (520) 792-4700 to schedule a consultation today.