The Importance of Proving Fault
Financial responsibility that results from a car accident, falls on the person at fault in most states. However, some states have a no-fault or hybrid system for addressing these matters.
In fault cases, the person who is responsible for the car accident is responsible for losses and therefore the burden falls on them to cover expenses incurred by the other drivers in the accident. However, in most cases, this is paid for by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Losses include car repairs, medical treatment, lost income, along with pain and suffering.
To prove another driver is at fault for an accident, and therefore responsible, you need to prove negligence. Furthermore, the fault for an accident can be shared. Therefore, if it’s mostly the other driver’s fault, they may not be required to cover all of your losses, just whatever the agreed-upon percentage is. For example, it may be 15% your fault on 85% their fault, meaning that they would only pay 85% of the loss.
How to prove fault and what to do after an accident
In order to successfully prove fault, there are some steps you should take immediately after the accident to ensure that you are properly compensated later on and are not covering costs that the at-fault driver’s insurance should be covering.
Collect the driver’s information immediately after the accident at the scene of the accident. Get their name, driver’s license numbers, address, phone number, email, and car insurance company and policy numbers. Write down the plate numbers of any cars involved in the accident.
Work with the police officer that comes to the scene. If you’re involved in an accident, and especially if someone is injured, a police officer will likely come to the scene of the accident to fill out a report. They will write down what happened, their opinion, and what traffic laws they believe were violated. You can get a copy of the police report from the law enforcement agency or your insurance adjuster that is handling the claim.
Report the car accident to law enforcement and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In many states, if any damage to vehicles, property, or persons occurs due to a car accident, you need to report it. In some states, like California, you are also required to report it to the DMV.
Make sure to document the damage done to your vehicle with pictures before you get your car repaired immediately after the accident. The type of damage sustained may be very telling to prove fault. For example, if you were rear-ended, then the car that rear-ended you is almost certainly at fault.
Make sure to take as many pictures of the scene of the accident as well. Include everything from close-up images of the cars, damage, far away shots that include the whole scene, along with traffic signs, skid marks, and road conditions.
Contact any witnesses that were not in any vehicles involved in the accident to get statements. This will help you to prove your claim as they will have a neutral perspective of the accident.
Look up local traffic laws once you’re at home. Check out any traffic laws that you think will relate to your case and help you build a case proving the other driver was at fault. The DMV should have the state’s traffic laws available at a public library.
Seek medical treatment as a priority after any accident. If EMTs arrive on the scene, allow them to check you out to make sure you don’t need any emergency care. From there, go to the emergency room or see your doctor so they can give you a thorough diagnosis and document any injuries. After that, consider getting additional treatment for any chronic injuries or pain from a chiropractor.
Let your insurer know about the accident. If any coverage is triggered, you may be required to do so, so inform your insurance company as soon as you can.
Finally, submit your insurance claim and any evidence for the claim. Submitting a claim should be relatively simple and can be done online. You should follow up with any documentation of injuries from your doctor, along with the police report, documentation of the accident, and anything else that will help your case.
Although nobody enjoys going this route, sometimes filing a lawsuit is necessary to get what you deserve. If you’re unable to resolve a liability claim yourself, the insurance company is disputing the fault in the accident, or the insurance company isn’t offering a good settlement offer, filing a lawsuit may be your next best option.
If you truly aren’t at fault, hiring a good attorney will likely make that clear and result in you receiving the right settlement to cover your loss. Furthermore, filing a lawsuit may make the insurance company take the claim more seriously and reconsider rather than go to court.