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Determining Fault in an Auto Accident

After a car accident, hold the driver at fault accountable

The nation’s #1 personal injury lawyers explain how to determine who caused an auto collision

A crash can unquestionably change everything. Most people think that it won’t happen to them. However, 6 million drivers and passengers collide every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 3 million of those accident victims suffer serious injuries. Each year, 38,000 die in fatal car, SUV, and truck crashes. In addition to these tragic injuries and deaths, auto collisions are tremendously costly. In fact, the CDC reports that “medical care costs and productivity losses associated with injuries and deaths from motor vehicle crashes exceed $75 billion.” In most causes, determining fault in an auto accident is also the first step towards figuring out who must pay a crash victim’s expenses. However, this can be complicated. As such, the car accident lawyers from Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys explain why fault determinations are crucial to getting compensation.

If you have questions about who caused your accident and how you can maximize your compensation, call, chat, text, or email us today for a free consultation with our winning lawyers.

How insurance companies assess fault in car crashes

After an accident, auto insurance companies perform 2 different types of fault analysis. First, they consider the state’s fault laws. Next, they assess the details of the car accident.

No-fault vs. at-fault accident laws

No-fault accident insurance laws

A minority of states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware, have “no-fault” car insurance laws. These laws require all drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage as part of their car insurance policies. PIP covers medical costs after an auto collision, regardless of who caused the accident.

However, even in no-fault states, property damage claims (usually for damage to the car that was in the accident) are still assessed and paid on an at-fault basis. In other words, if another driver damages your car, SUV, or truck and is at fault, their car insurance may help cover your repairs and property costs.

States that require PIP

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah

At-fault collision insurance laws

In contrast, at-fault states do not require PIP. Instead, the at-fault driver’s car insurance helps pay for injury and property damage claims.

What happens when more than one driver in an auto accident is at fault?

In many if not most instances, more than one person contributed to an accident. For example, consider a situation where a speeding driver collides with another driver who was changing lanes without using a turn signal. However, that does not mean that both drivers are equally at fault. Thus, in addition to understanding at-fault vs. no fault insurance laws, you need to understand how different states handle multiple at-fault drivers.

Determining who’s at fault in a comparative negligence state

Comparative negligence is one model that states use to determine who is at fault and who pays for what in a car accident. There are two types of comparative negligence: pure and modified.

Fault determinations in a pure comparative model

Here is how a pure comparative negligence state works:

  • Firstly, the fault percentages are determined. For example, consider the hypothetical accident we just discussed, where a speeding driver crashed with a car that was switching lanes without signaling. In such an instance, the speeding driver might be found to be 70% at fault while the lane-switching driver is only 30%.
  • Next, the party seeking to recover for losses and injuries calculates the percentage they can recover. To do so, they should subtract their own at-fault percentage number from the number 100. In our example, the speeding driver would subtract 70 from 100 and get 30. This means that driver can recover 30%.

The following states are pure comparative negligence states:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington

Determining fault for an accident using a modified comparative model

However, not all comparative negligence states use a pure comparative model. In contrast, most states have modified comparative negligence. Under this model, there is an extra step. In order to recover anything, you must be less than a certain percentage at fault (usually 50% or 51%). If you are found to be more than 50% or 51% at fault, you cannot recover at all.  Thus, consider our example from before. In a pure comparative model, the speeding driver could still recover 30%. However, in a modified comparative model, he would recover nothing because he is more than 51% at fault.

These states use modified comparative negligence:

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Recovering under a contributory negligence scheme

Although all states used to have contributory negligence laws, only 6 states still use this model today. The rule for contributory negligence is simple: if you are found even the smallest bit at fault, you cannot recover anything. Thus, in these states, a driver who is 0.5% at fault won’t get a penny.

The following states use contributory negligence:

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

Do you need help proving that you were not at fault in your car crash?

Regardless of a state’s laws, determining fault in an auto accident is everything. Luckily, our leading car and truck crash lawyers are here to help. For over 60 years, Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys has fought to maximize payouts for accident victims. Time and time again, we’ve won millions for our clients.

In fact, we are so confident in our abilities to recover BIG for you YOU that we will make you this guarantee: we will pay all of the costs of fighting your case out of our own pockets and if you don’t get paid, neither we will. That means if we do not recover for you, you will walk away owing us absolutely nothing.

To learn more about how a Munley personal injury lawyer can help you prove that your collision was the other driver’s fault, schedule your free consultation today.


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Posted in Car Accidents.

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