What Happens If I Am at Fault For a Car Accident?

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Rather than another car slamming into you, you may find yourself labeled the at-fault party in a car accident. Before succumbing to anxiety and stress, understand what happens if you cause a motor vehicle collision. No matter whether you cause a car collision or become the victim in a motor vehicle accident, you still have rights to protect. Educate yourself on those rights with help from us here at Mike Morse Law Firm, so you make well-informed decisions. 

Understanding How Fault Works in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Before assuming the blame for a car collision, get clear on how fault works. For motor vehicle accidents, “at-fault” means a person bears responsibility, liability and blame for damage, harm and injury resulting from the collision. The responsible party bears fault because she or he either did something or neglected to take action and caused a collision. 

Examples of negligent driver actions include:

No matter the negligent action that caused a car collision, determining fault starts at the collision scene.

The Importance of Fault

The reason drivers, insurance companies and legal advocates focus so much on fault is that the at-fault party must take care of the accident victim’s pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, medical bills and car repairs. 

Another reason to prioritize determining the at-fault party is that a single unfortunate incident could have multiple negligent parties. For example, even if you drove above the speed limit and plowed into another driver, the other person may have looked down at her or his phone right before the collision. Had the other driver paid attention to the road, the accident may not have happened. Under those circumstances, both motorists share the blame for the aftermath. When at least two drivers share fault for a motor vehicle collision, states rely on comparative negligence or contributory negligence laws.

Comparative Negligence

In states that follow comparative negligence laws, car accident defendants may build a partial defense and say the plaintiff bears limited fault for the accident. Using the example above, Driver A may bear 80% of the fault for the accident for breaking the speed limit, and Driver B could bear 20% of the fault for driving distracted. If the collision resulted in $100,000 in damages, Driver B may only recover $80,000 rather than the full $100,000. 

Different states have different comparative negligence laws. In pure comparative negligence states, no matter the percentage of fault car collision victims bear, they qualify for compensation from the other party. In modified comparative negligence states, accident victims qualify for limited damages if their fault surpasses a specific degree. For instance, in some states, car crash victims may only receive compensation if their fault does not exceed the defendant’s.

Contributory Negligence 

The only states that follow contributory negligence regulations for car accidents are Washington, D.C., Maryland, Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia. In those locations, if car collision victims bear even 1% of the blame, they cannot recover damages at all. Because of how severely contributory negligence laws lock victims out of receiving compensation for even minor faults, only a few states adopt the regulations.

No-Fault States

Depending on the state, it may not matter which person caused a motor vehicle accident and its resulting damages and injuries. In no-fault states, all motorists must have personal injury protection on their car insurance policies. With PIP protection, the insurance provider takes care of all car accident losses, no matter the at-fault party.

In these states, the only way drivers may take legal action against each other is if they suffer severe injuries or their health care bills surpass a specific threshold. Even in at-fault states, motorists have the option to include Medical Payments Coverage or PIP as part of their policy.

Proving Fault

No matter how obvious it may seem that you caused a car collision, one of the most helpful things to do for yourself is to not admit fault, no matter what. Instead, let the professionals determine what happened and uncover all the factors at play. With all the evidence on the table, you could discover the victim played a bigger part in the accident than you realize.

Proof insurance adjusters and legal advocates use to establish fault include:

  • Images of the scene
  • Police reports
  • Witness statements
  • Location of damage on the vehicles
  • Traffic violations issued after the collision

Before legal and insurance representatives prove fault in a motor vehicle accident, they must first prove negligence. Negligence is irresponsible actions that harm others.

Understanding How Fault Affects Insurance in Motor Vehicle Accidents

The evidence came back, and you bear responsibility for the car collision. If you have liability coverage as part of your policy, your insurance provider covers the other party’s financial harm, health care costs and general damages, but only up to the policy’s limits. If you have collision coverage, it takes care of the harm you suffered in the incident.

If found at fault for a car collision, expect your insurance rates to increase the next time you renew your policy. How much more you pay depends on your driving record, but as of 2021, motorists with a clean record found at fault for motor vehicle accidents see a premium increase of roughly 40%, according to Forbes Advisor.

You must also think about how much damage the accident caused when determining how much your rates increase. For instance, if found at fault for a minor fender bender, your rates do not increase as much as they would if you caused a multiple-car collision. No matter how much your premiums go up, expect them to stay that way for three to five years, but that depends on your zip code. You could try reducing your overall costs by asking about discounts, bundling policies and taking a defensive driving course.

Handling the Aftermath of a Motor Vehicle Accident

At-fault parties and car collision victims alike deserve to know what to do after a car accident. After checking themselves and their passengers for injuries, parties should call first responders to the scene if anyone sustained harm and the police to the scene of the accident so they may make a report. All drivers should take pictures of the damage their vehicles sustained and their injuries.

Parties should exchange contact and insurance information and gather written or verbal statements from witnesses along with their contact information. It also makes sense to record an account of how the accident happened and file an insurance claim. Parties should not leave the scene of the accident, throw accusations at each other or talk about the accident with each other.

Contact Us Today

Even with mounting evidence against you after a motor vehicle accident, you may still have a legal case to build. To explore your options and protect your legal rights, speak with a car accident lawyer from Mike Morse Law Firm. At your convenience, call us at 855-645-3946 or submit an online form to schedule your free case review. 

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