If you are at fault for causing a car accident, you and your insurance will be liable for the damages of the other driver and any passengers. However, don’t be too quick to assume you are at fault. Fault is a complicated issue that requires a full investigation.
Learning about how fault is determined, what to do and not to do after an accident, and who pays for the other driver’s damages when you are at fault will help you protect yourself and your rights after an accident, even if it was your fault.
An attorney with a proven track record in settling million-dollar cases can help guide you or answer questions. Contact us or call (800) 310-1606 for help!
Whether an Accident Was Your Fault Is a Complicated Question
Don’t assume too quickly that the accident was your fault. You may feel like there was something you did wrong or could have done better, but fault in a car accident is a very complicated issue. It’s possible that you weren’t actually at fault, or that you were only partially at fault.
You Are at Fault if Your Negligence or Reckless Driving Caused the Accident
The laws for determining fault are a little different in every state, but some general principles stay the same. A person is at fault if they were negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous in how they were operating their car, and that led to the car accident.
It’s also possible for more than one driver to be at fault in an accident. If both drivers were negligent or reckless, then the fault is shared.
Insurance Companies Look at many Factors to Determine Who Is At Fault
Insurance adjusters will review details about how the accident happened, including photos and other physical evidence from the scene, statements from the drivers and any witnesses, and the police report. While an important piece of evidence, it does not determine fault all on its own. The findings of a police officer on the scene are not binding on insurance companies, or court if the case is taken to trial. If one party received a ticket or citation, it doesn’t mean they were solely at fault in the accident.
Fault Is Only Decided After a Full Investigation or at the End of a Court Case
After investigating, each driver’s insurance will make its own determination of fault. If both insurances agree about the fault, you may be able to settle quickly. If the insurance companies disagree, things can get more complicated.
An insurance company is only going to pay out under a policy if it agrees that its insured driver was at fault. If not, the damaged party will likely need to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent them. Their lawyer can help them negotiate with the insurance, and, if necessary, take the case to court.
In the end, if the parties cannot agree as to fault and negotiations fail, the court will make the final determination. Although the insurance companies may decide who they believe to be at fault at an earlier stage, in the end, only the court’s determination is final and binding.
Who Is At Fault, and When…?
You may be curious who is at fault in specific circumstances, such as when you rear-end someone or when you cut someone off. While you would typically be at fault in both of those cases, the answer is almost always “it depends.” Fault really is a complicated subject that often requires a lawyer to navigate, and there are exceptions to every rule.
For example, if you rear-end someone, you are likely at fault. However, if that person had suddenly switched lanes and cut you off before slamming on their breaks, you likely would not be. In that case, if you had not done anything negligent or reckless at all, the other driver would be at fault.
In addition, if more than one driver was negligent or reckless, they can both be at fault for causing the accident.
What to Do After an Accident That Was Your Fault
Under California law, after an accident, you are required to pull over to a safe place. If other people were involved in the accident, and they were injured, you must help them if reasonably possible and make sure they are transported to a hospital if needed. You are also legally required to exchange your contact and insurance information and file a police report as soon as possible.
If you caused property damage and the owner isn’t aware of it, like a parked car, you are required to either notify them or leave a note if you can’t find them.
Admitting Fault in a Car Accident
While helping any injured people and exchanging your information, what you should not do is admit fault. The thing is, you may feel like you were at fault, but you can’t really be sure. You don’t know what the other driver was doing or have the full picture. Fault is a legal issue that should be determined after a full investigation, not in the spur of the moment on the side of the road.
Admitting fault may be used against you by the other driver’s insurance, even if it turns out you weren’t really at fault. Focus on getting you and the other people involved safely out of harm’s way, and let the professionals figure out who was at fault later.
If You Are At Fault, Your Insurance Will Pay for Damages
If your insurance determines you are at fault, the next question is, who pays? Your insurance will pay for the damages (property and personal injury) of the other driver and any passengers, but only up to your policy limits. If their medical bills and expenses are higher than your policy limits, the other parties can come after you personally to pay for the excess damages. Keeping a decent insurance policy can help protect you against these kinds of claims.
If you are uninsured and are determined to be at fault by a court, you will be personally liable for all the damages.
A Driver Can Be Only Partially At Fault
If you and the other driver are each partially at fault, then you may not owe the full amount of the damages. The laws on partial fault vary between states, but California uses the comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, fault is divided up by percentages, and each party owes the other a percentage of their damages equal to their percentage of fault.
Damages Are Handled Differently in No-Fault States
In some states, fault is not an issue at all in car accidents. By law, each driver’s own insurance pays for their damages, and the fault is never determined. California is not a no-fault state.
Your Premium Will Go Up
In almost all cases, after an accident, your premium will go up. You are now considered a higher risk to your insurance, and they will charge you more based on that higher risk determination.
You May Need to Hire an Attorney
Typically, if you were at fault in an accident, your car insurance will provide an attorney for you. However, there are some circumstances where you may want to hire your own attorney to represent your interests. If you don’t have insurance or if you feel your insurance isn’t protecting you, a consultation with a personal injury attorney may help make sure you are protected. The personal injury attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot LLP have over 100 years of combined legal experience to get their clients the best possible outcome for their claims.
If you were involved in a car accident and think you may have been at fault, the accident attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot LLP may be able to help. Contact us or call (800) 310-1606 to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with some of California’s most successful attorneys.