Our Step-by-Step Guide If You are In an At Fault Accident
Car accidents are an unfortunate but common occurrence in the US. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTA), there is at least one car accident reported every minute.
While most of these accidents are due to driver errors, some crashes are caused by factors such as poor weather or roads. If you find yourself in an at-fault car accident, they’re things that you can do to protect yourself and your rights.
Fault State versus No-Fault State
After a car accident, the insurance company may try to determine fault and no-fault parties to determine the amount of insurance claim payout. Most insurance companies don’t care to find the truth, they’re objective is to minimize payouts.
Fault State – The at-fault driver in the accident is liable for the losses of the other driver, passengers, or anyone else harmed during the accident. The at-fault person’s bodily injury (BI) liability insurance will cater for medical bills, vehicle damages, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
No-fault State– The insurance requires car owners to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This policy covers medical bills and economic losses suffered by the policyholder, regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
How Is At-Fault Accident Liability Determined?
Even if you’re the at-fault party of the accident, your liability may be significantly reduced or canceled depending on the actions of the other party. Evaluating liability and calculating the damages vary by state, but generally fall under one of these categories:
In contributory negligence, the plaintiff is barred from receiving any compensation if the accident was a result of their own negligence.
Pure comparative fault
The injured party can still recover a certain percentage of damages even if s/he is partially to blame for the crash. For example, if it’s ruled that the plaintiff was 30% responsible for the crash and the damages were $100,000, the at-fault party is liable to pay them $70,000.
Modified comparative fault
This is a blend of contributory negligence and pure comparative fault states. It prevents the other driver from recovering damages from you if they were more than fifty percent to blame for the accident.
The Steps to Take After an At-Fault Auto Crash
How you respond after the accident could make or break your legal case. So, here’s the step-by-step guide if you’re in an at-fault car crash:
Don’t leave the scene
Whether it is a minor or serious car accident, never flee the scene as it can result in a hit-and-run case being filed against you. A hit and run is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a court fine of up to $5,000, and restitution to the victim. However, those penalties can vary depending on the severity of the accident. Even if you are at fault in the car accident is not a situation you want to deal with.
Make sure everyone is safe
If you can, pull your vehicle to the side of the road to prevent further accidents. If the accident occurs at night, turn on your hazard lights or a flashlight (if your lights don’t work) so that other drivers can see you. You can as well use cones, flares, or warning triangles for extra safety.
Check around to see whether all passengers with you are safe. If anyone is injured, call 911 to get an ambulance and police at the scene as fast as possible. Also, it’s crucial that you get checked by a doctor. While you might feel the effects of an exposed injury instantly, some injuries have no immediate symptoms and might take days or weeks before they appear. Seeking help does not indicate if you were at fault or not.
Get a police report
If you’re at fault in a car accident, it might be tempting to avoid calling the police. It’s standard procedure to report an accident, even if they’re no injuries, to authorities. Tell the truth about what transpired as lying may result in a much more severe offense.
You can run over your memory before they arrive, so you’re clear on exactly what happened. Besides, after filing the report, you should take the name, phone number, and badge number of any law enforcement officers who responded to the crash scene.
Collect Basic information
State laws differ on the type of information you’re expected to exchange with the other driver after a crash. Typically, here is the most important information you should collect after the car accident.
- The other driver’s name and phone number
- Name of the insurance company
- Driver’s license and car plate number
- Type, color, and model of the car
- Location of the accident
However, avoid discussing the details of the accident with anyone, including the other driver, because the insurance company may use that information against you in a court of law. Refusing conversation does not indicate if you are at fault or otherwise.
If possible, you should safely take pictures of the accident, showcasing the position and the damage of each vehicle. If you’re unable to take photos, consider drawing a diagram showing how the accident occurred. Document everything while the memory is still fresh, including the location, time of the day, traffic conditions, and road hazards that may have impacted the crash. Furthermore, if there were witnesses on the scene, try to get their names and contact information. Even if you are at fault – having this information can help your case.
Don’t admit fault after an accident
Even if you believe that you’re at fault, avoid admitting it. Several aspects are used to determine the liability of a crash, and you might not have all the facts that caused or contributed to the accident. Simply provide a factual statement to the police without saying, “It was my fault.” Also, don’t apologize to the other party, as it might be construed as evidence of fault.
Seek legal help
A car accident lawyer can protect your rights and ensure you do not make mistakes while making any statement, this can be especially helpful when you are at fault. The attorney can also ensure valuable evidence is not destroyed, and you avoid common and major mistakes in the process. A lawyer will advise you on how to handle issues throughout the case, such as dealing with your insurer, ways you can try to settle the matter out of court, and how to build a strong defense if your case goes to trial.
Contact your insurance company
You should inform your insurance company about the accident right away. Inform them about the basics of the accident, including the location and time. The agent can help you understand your insurance coverage and walk you through the process of filing a claim.
Being at fault in an auto accident can be upsetting and confusing, but it’s vital to take responsibility and follow the above steps to protect you from unnecessary worries. That way, you can focus on working with your insurance company to get your claim processed and your car repaired as fast as possible.