A car accident can change your life in a matter of seconds. You will instantly have to contend with medical bills, lost wages, insurance companies, and the police. Your insurance company or the police will also determine which driver is at fault in a car accident.
Determining the responsible party in an at-fault car accident goes a long way toward reaching a satisfying resolution. The laws regarding fault vary from state to state, so it is essential to have a seasoned legal professional available to assist you. Here is how to determine fault if you are involved in a car accident, as well as your next steps.
At-Fault vs. No-Fault States
Most states have a fault-system, which means the person liable for damages, must pay a majority of the compensation. Georgia, which is an at-fault state, allows people to split damages based on their percentage of responsibility. For instance, if an insurance company finds one driver is 60% at-fault, then that driver would pay for 60% of the damages, while the other party pays 40%.
Twelve states, including Puerto Rico, have no-fault systems. When drivers in these areas get into an accident, the individual’s car insurance policy covers the damages. States that have no-fault systems include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
Insurance companies often determine fault for people involved in the accident. They use the legal definition of negligence as a baseline, which says a driver did not exercise a reasonable amount of caution or care. For instance, a person who speeds through a red light and hits another car at the intersection will likely be negligent and at fault.
Even if an insurance company finds you at fault for the accident, you can sue using comparative negligence. This legal defense lowers the amount of damages you would owe because the other person has a partial fault. Note that you cannot recover damages if you are more than 50% at-fault.
Damages Covered in Car Accident
If the other person is at fault in the car accident, you are entitled to various amounts of compensation. The damages depend on the driver’s degree of negligence and the accident’s severity.
Some potential damages can include:
- Medical bills related to personal injury
- Physical therapy
- Prescription medication
- Damage to your vehicle
- Diminished earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
In the majority of incidents, drivers do not pay damages out of pocket. Their car insurance provider covers the expenses up to the predetermined policy limit. A person may be responsible for additional costs if the other party takes them to court, which typically happens in severe cases.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Your safety should be the top priority. Make sure to pay attention to your well being after getting into a car accident. If you have any pressing injuries, contact emergency services for immediate assistance.
Make an effort to swap contact information with the other person. Share your car insurance policy so each party can follow up regarding potential claims.
Whatever you do, do not admit fault. While you are entitled to feel liable or sorry for the accident, admitting fault will undercut your case and potential compensation.
Call 911, as well as your insurance company, even if the accident does not appear severe. Law enforcement officials act as a neutral third party to document the scene and collect pertinent evidence. You should take photos and videos of the wreckage independently after you call the police, but having a formal police report can strengthen your claims.
Some of the things the police can record include:
- The date, time, and location of the accident
- Identifying information for all parties in the accident
- Eye-witness testimony
- Roadway and weather conditions
- Citations and violations
- Diagram of the scene
Law enforcement and emergency response personnel secure the scene for the safety of passengers and pedestrians. They may contact emergency medical services, block off the cars with tape, and reroute traffic. Officers will also investigate the cause of the accident, which can provide grounds to determine the at-fault party.
How Car Accidents Impact Insurance Rates
After you leave the scene, you will want to contact your car insurance provider, regardless of whether you are at fault in the car accident or not. Most companies require you to report a car accident immediately after they happen. Failing to report a case may make you ineligible for coverage.
Some states, like Massachusetts, prohibit insurance companies from raising your rate if you do not cause an accident. The only way for your rate to increase is if you are 51% responsible or more.
Other no-fault states, like Minnesota and Michigan, may raise your rates, irrespective of who caused an accident.
On a positive note, accidents and violations do not stay on your permanent record forever. Incidents no longer affect your premiums after five years. As long as you remain accident-free in the meantime, you should be able to restore your insurance rates.
Dealing with legal issues can overwhelm anyone. That’s why it’s good to reach out to professional attorneys with experience in Georgia law.
Call Georgia Auto Law for help if you’ve been in a car accident, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 404-662-4949, or online through live chat.