The story goes like this: you have just been involved in a car accident.
Because of it, you have some injuries, perhaps nothing too serious, but costly enough that you need compensation to cover substantial medical bills. Maybe you even need cover for those days when you’re on bed rest and have to miss work.
You feel like you should be compensated for your injuries, but there’s a catch. You were at fault in causing the accident. So, the obvious question that comes up is: are you still entitled to compensation if you caused the crash?
The issue is relatively complex, but we’re hoping to make things clear in this article.
Know the Law
The first step towards answering this question is to find out what the state law says about at-fault drivers and their right to compensation.
When you break it down, there are two main categories:
1. Pure Comparative Fault States
In this category, the party involved in an accident is liable for damages in direct proportion to the degree of their fault. If you are found to be 60% at fault for causing the crash, while the other party is only 40% responsible, then pure comparative fault states allow you to seek pain and suffering compensation but reduced to a 40% of total damages. Florida, for instance, is a pure comparative fault state, so you are entitled to compensation. Therefore, if it’s found you are 99% responsible for causing the accident, you’ll only be allowed to 1% of total damages.
2. Modified Comparative Fault States
Most states follow the modified comparative fault model, where if you are more responsible for the accident than the other party, you cannot collect any damages. You can only open a claim if the other party is responsible for more than 50% of total losses, but your request will still be reduced by your degree of fault, like in the pure comparative fault states.
If you are living in Tampa, Florida, you’re probably wondering why we even bother telling you about the laws in other states. Well, if the accident took place in a modified comparative fault state, those laws apply, even if the car is registered to Florida. So it’s essential you know the laws of the state the accident took place, not just the ones where you reside.
Proving the at-fault Party
In some cases, it is obvious who is at fault for a vehicle accident, and from that, the entire process can run its course smoothly. However, there is a lot of grey area when it comes to most car accidents. Unless one of the parties was just sitting in a parking lot and the other party hit the parked vehicle, an accident is usually caused by more than only one person.
So, who determines who is at fault in a car accident? Well, if we are talking about insurance claims only, then the insurance company adjuster will review the case and determine how much you are at fault, and what you’re entitled to for compensation. However, you might not always be pleased with what they find, which is why you should have a lawyer that represents your interests during this process.
Insurance companies will assign a person to review the case, called a claims adjuster. They will allocate each party a percentage of fault, based on the evidence they have on hand and the state laws to see who they can hold liable.
Each party involved in the accident have their claims adjuster, which will often have to work together to reach a conclusion. This process can be dragged on quite a bit since both parties will argue for the smallest percentage of blame. If you can’t reach a mutual conclusion, then the court will step in and help solve the case.
What Affects Fault?
Claims adjusters take into account a variety of information to determine fault. One of the first things they’ll review is the police report to get a better idea of the events that took place. The police report can be either damning or very helpful, depending on how you’re portrayed in it because it is seen as an objective recollection of the accident.
Then, they will look at what other evidence is available and review it. We’re talking about photos, witness statements, and proof if one party admitted fault, even if it wasn’t done correctly.
What Can You Do?
If you are involved in a car accident and are partly at fault for causing it, there are a few things you can do to help your case. The first thing would be to hire a lawyer to represent you. That is a critical step you must take if you want to be compensated for your injuries.
Here’s what a lawyer can do:
- Represent you in meetings with insurance company officers;
- Gather evidence and talk to witnesses to make a case for contesting the initial insurance evaluation;
- Negotiate a better settlement.
You are better off with professional representation because, unless you can’t tell by now, claiming pain and suffering compensation can be very tricky. One small mishap can ruin your chances of ever getting the settlement you deserve and need.
Not to mention, it’s a very stressful process, and you need to have someone on your side. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your claims adjuster is representing your interests, even if they are meeting with the other parties. They represent the insurance company, not you.
Still, there are other things you can do to increase your chances of getting a settlement:
- Call the police immediately;
- Take pictures of the car and other damages that took place, including photos of your injuries. That will help your lawyer make a case for you;
- Note if there are any surveillance cameras in the area;
- Write down everything that took place that day the first chance you get, with as many details as possible;
- Create a list of witnesses to help your lawyer track them down quickly;
- Record any comments made by other parties at the scene of the accident;
- Don’t, under any circumstances, make any comments about the accident;
- Don’t make any statements to officials without your lawyer present. Even something as small as using the wrong word in a sentence can be used against you;
- Keep a file with all your medical records, bills and prescriptions gathered as a result of the accident. You can even ask your doctor to make a written statement describing your injuries.
Nobody likes to think about the possibility of an accident, but unfortunately, drivers must be prepared if they occur.
The claims process can be a frustrating one, but if you are not represented correctly, it can make it even more difficult.
If you’ve been involved in a vehicle accident, contact us today for a free case review.