What Happens If I Am at Fault For a Car Accident?
Being in a motor vehicle accident brings with it a lot of stress, questions and uncertainty. If you think you caused a car accident, you could feel even more pressure. While you may want to hold yourself accountable for harm and damage you think you caused, you still deserve to know your rights and legal options if you trigger a car collision. Before claiming too much blame, Phillips Law Group wants to help you understand what happens when you bear the fault in a motor vehicle crash.
Quick Facts About Fault
Drivers who cause accidents usually worry most about their insurance rates and whether the injured party may sue them. Starting our guide with a few quick facts could help ease your worries as you learn more about your rights.
- If you have car insurance, expect it to take care of all injured individuals’ bodily harm and car damage up to your policy’s limit.
- If you took action or failed to take action and caused the collision, expect to become the at-fault party.
- Insurance adjusters decide how car crashes happen and which party caused them. Judges and juries have the final say in whether the plaintiff or defendant may sue.
- After an at-fault accident, expect your coverage premiums to increase by roughly 40% when you next renew your policy.
- Factors that determine losses handled by your insurance coverage include your individual policy and Arizona law.
Rather than name yourself the party responsible for causing physical harm and property damage, leave that to the insurance adjuster and police officer.
Steps To Take After a Car Crash
No matter if you think you caused a car accident, you must take specific steps after a collision.
Do Not Leave
Harmed and unharmed parties must not leave the scene of the accident, as doing so only puts them at risk of facing criminal charges for a hit-and-run accident. If the person fleeing the scene caused the accident, she or he must still take responsibility for the resulting damage and physical injuries, so it makes more sense to sit tight and face the consequences.
Check Everyone for Injuries
Check yourself, your passengers and everyone else involved in the collision for injuries, summoning the paramedics for anyone who needs emergency medical attention. As you wait for first responders, call the police to the scene to create an accident report. Make sure you get a copy of the report, as you may need it if you have a legal case. Another reason to secure the police report is so you know for sure if you caused the accident, as the report may mention the most-likely at-fault party.
Exchange Insurance and Contact Information
Exchange contact and insurance information with all involved parties, but do not admit blame or discuss facts about the incident. You do not want to admit blame for something you did not cause, as insurance providers could use your words against you. Even if the other driver or others accuse you of wrongdoing or become upset, say nothing about what you did before the accident, who you think caused the collision or whether the other driver did anything to cause the accident. Silence costs nothing, but speaking could cost you everything.
Document the Scene
Take several images from various angles of the damage to your car and injuries you suffered. To build your legal case, take pictures of the damage to all other vehicles and individuals, in case they help identify the responsible party. Do not forget to capture images of traffic signals, construction zones, traffic signs and road conditions around the accident scene.
Gather Witness Statements
Ask for a verbal or written statement from anyone who witnessed the accident. Do not forget to ask for the person’s contact information, in case you or your legal team has follow-up questions.
Get Medical Treatment
Car accident injuries do not discriminate between at-fault parties and harmed victims. Let a physician examine you for injuries, as you could have hidden or delayed injuries or symptoms. Do not let adrenaline fool you into thinking you did not sustain harm.
Understanding Partial Fault in Car Accidents
You may only bear a percentage of the blame and not realize it. For example, even if you ran a red light and plowed into the other driver, she or he may have looked down at a screen moments before the collision, becoming distracted. Perhaps the city did not erect a road construction zone properly, which could trigger accidents. This is why legal representatives caution clients against admitting fault at the collision scene. You do not know all the factors at play, so you may have nothing to apologize or take responsibility for.
When discussing negligence in personal injury cases like car accidents, plaintiffs and defendants deserve to know about contributory negligence and comparative fault. States follow different rules to decide how to handle injuries where multiple parties bear the blame for the resulting injuries and damage.
Pure Contributory Negligence
Examples of states that follow pure contributory negligence rules include Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland. If parties bear even a single percent of the blame for another’s harm in these states, they cannot recover damages. That means that even if one individual or entity bears 99% of the fault, the other party cannot recover a settlement. Whatsoever.
Pure Comparative Fault
In pure comparative fault states, an entity or person may receive partial damages even when evidence finds the party 99% at fault. As long as the business or person does not bear the full brunt of the blame, the possibility of winning partial compensation remains on the table. Pure comparative fault states include Washington, New Mexico, Kentucky, Florida, Arizona and Louisiana.
Modified Comparative Fault
Most states follow modified comparative fault regulations. That means that parties may only seek monetary compensation if they bear less blame than the other individual or entity does. Select states forbid financial recovery if a party is 50% at fault while others bar recovery at 51%. Modified comparative fault locations include Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Montana and New Hampshire.
How At-Fault Car Accidents Affect Insurance
If the police report, insurance investigation and all other evidence points to you being the responsible party, expect your premiums to increase. It may only serve as cold comfort, but insurance providers rarely learn about car accidents until it’s time to renew a policy. You may have several months to prepare for the increase, which could be all you need to get your financial house in order.
How much your premiums increase depends on the accident’s severity and how much your insurance provider pays for the resulting damage. For instance, a minor sideswipe that barely scrapes the paint off the other vehicle does not increase your rates as much as causing a multi-car pile-up and multiple severe injuries.
Contact Us Today
No matter if you caused a motor vehicle accident or sustained injuries in one as a victim, you have rights, and Phillips Law Group stands ready to help you preserve those rights. Let us help you make sure you have all the evidence you need to determine whether you’re the defendant or the plaintiff in your legal situation. To arrange a free case evaluation, call one of our representatives at 1-800-706-3000.
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