Who Determines Fault in a Car Accident?

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Parties Who Determine Fault in Car Accident

Car Damaged in Accident

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, one of the first things you might ask about is “Who Determines Fault in a Car Accident?” Fault is not necessarily decided by one party. Rather, the police report, your insurance company, and sometimes the other driver play a role in determining fault in car accidents.

In order to recover compensation for damages in an auto accident, you should consult an experienced car accident lawyer. The team at Munley Law has decades of experience helping the victims of car accidents and we’re here to offer a free consultation and free case review today.

Do Police Assign Fault in an Accident?

The first pass at determining fault in an accident comes from the police who respond to the scene. An officer’s primary duty when arriving at the scene of a motor vehicle accident is to assess whether anyone needs medical care.

Their secondary duty is to examine the scene, collect evidence, and determine what happened, why, and who is responsible.

Sometimes it’s clear for the person or party who determines fault in an auto accident. For instance, if you were hit by a drunk driver, or someone clearly ran through a red light and T-Boned another driver, the fault is fairly obvious. Other times it’s less cut and dry.

The police report usually consists of their review of the accident scene and the property damage, physical evidence, and more. The officer will also interview all parties involved, including you, the other driver, and witnesses. Your insurance company will want to understand all these details when they review your case.

Do Insurance Companies Determine Fault?

Documenting accident scene

If the other driver denies responsibility, the insurance company determines fault for the accident. In the aftermath of a car wreck, an insurance adjuster or investigator from the insurance company will weigh all relevant data, relying heavily on the police report along with other evidence.

This is why it’s always important to call the police immediately after an accident. Their report will serve as the official account of what occurred and will be used as a tool (though not the only one) to correctly assign fault by your own insurance company.

This is also why it’s very important to gather your own physical evidence after the accident. You can take pictures of the scene, the vehicles involved, and your injuries, should you have sustained any. You are also free to ask witnesses for their accounts, and whether they’d be willing to share their information with you for possible further contact. All of this can help to paint a full picture of what occurred and make sure the right driver is held responsible.

Comparative Negligence in Auto Accidents

Inspecting a car accident

Once fault is determined, the insurance company adjusters will assign particular percentages of fault based on the specifics of a case. This is called comparative negligence.

If one driver’s negligence is the sole cause of the accident, they will bear all the responsibility. But often, two or more drivers play a role in the accident. In a case like this, depending on what happened, insurance adjusters may determine that one driver is 60% responsible and the other driver is 40% responsible.

In Pennsylvania, a system called modified comparative negligence is applied. It’s also known as the 51% rule. That means, if a driver holds more than 51% of the fault, they cannot collect damages against a party with 49% fault.

If you believe that the insurance investigators have incorrectly assigned fault, or incorrectly applied comparative negligence, you have every right to seek legal counsel and representation. The dedicated car accident attorneys at Munley Law can review your case and help you pursue legal action if that is warranted.

Admitting Fault in a Car Accident

An auto accident can be a very scary and high-adrenaline situation, especially if someone is hurt. But it’s important to remember not to admit fault at the scene, as this may very well be used against you down the line.

For instance, it’s often a human impulse to say sorry even when you’re not really the one in the wrong. In the case of a car accident, this can be a high-stakes mistake, as simply apologizing can be perceived as an admission of fault. Avoid this kind of error and allow the police to make their determination in accident cases.

What if the Other Drive Does Not Have Insurance? 

Although the state of Pennsylvania legally requires all drivers to be insured, there are unfortunately people who choose to break this law and drive without insurance. In a case where you have been in an accident and the at-fault party does not have insurance, you have a couple of options.

You can file a compensation claim with your own insurance company with personal injury protection, or, alternately, you can file a personal injury suit against the driver. The same is true if the driver does not have sufficient coverage to meet your needs.

The specifics of this process and personal injury protection vary state to state. The attorneys at Munley Law can help you determine which of these courses of action is best after thoroughly reviewing your case. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Arbitration Versus Trial

If insurers don’t agree on fault, arbitration is an option. The dispute can be taken to a private company, Arbitrations Forums Inc, where a third party assesses the damage and decides who is responsible for what level of payment or compensation. This reduces the number of car accident cases that rise to the level of a lawsuit.

To understand more about this process after an auto accident, consult an attorney today for a free consultation.

If you’ve been in an accident and want to know “Who Determines Fault in a Car Accident?” we are here to help. Call an attorney today who can guide you through this complex process and make sure you receive all the compensation you are owed.

Contact us today for a free consultation or free case review.

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