How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

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How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

If you are involved in a car accident, one of the first things that will need to be determined is who is at fault. In some cases, it is clear who is responsible for the crash, but in others, it can be more challenging to determine.

If you have questions about how to determine fault or if you need help with your accident claim, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. We can help you understand your legal options and get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to get started on your case.

What Is “Fault” in an Accident?

To understand how fault is determined in a car accident, it is first important to understand what “fault” means. Fault is essentially the legal term for responsibility. When one driver is at fault for an accident, they are legally responsible for the damages caused by the crash.

Many factors can contribute to who is at fault in an accident. Some of the most common include:

Who Determines Fault?

After an accident, both drivers will usually contact their insurance companies to begin the claims process. Typically, the car insurance companies initially determine fault for the accident. The car insurance companies will conduct an investigation and may use factors like the police report, witness statements, and accident scene photos to determine who is at fault.  The car insurance companies’ determination is not binding and often is incorrect.   Accordingly, you should always call an experienced car accident attorney to discuss your claim.  The lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. are always fighting for our clients, and often reverse an initial determination of fault.  

Often, fault has to be determined by a judge or jury if the case goes to court. If you do not agree with the insurance company’s decision, or if the accident resulted in serious injuries, the case may go to trial.

How Car Accident Fault is Determined

There are a few different ways that fault can be determined after a car accident.

Police Report

One is through the police report. When a law enforcement officer arrives at the accident scene, they will likely prepare a report detailing what happened and who they believe is at fault.

The Drivers Involved in the Accident

The drivers involved in the accident can also offer their own accounts of what happened. This is often done through a recorded statement to the insurance company.

Witness Accounts

If there are any witnesses to the accident, they can also provide their account of what happened. This can help determine who is at fault, especially if the drivers involved have different versions of events.

How Fault Impacts the Value of Your Auto Accident Claim

If the accident happened in a  state that follows a “comparative negligence” rule, the amount of your auto accident claim may be reduced by your percentage of fault – meaning, if you are partially responsible for causing the accident, you may only receive a portion of the total value of your claim.

For example, let’s say you are in a car accident that results in $100,000 in damages, and you were found to be 20% at fault for the accident. In this case, you would only receive $80,000 from the other driver’s insurance company.

 Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC  follow a pure contributory negligence rule.  This provides that if you are found to be even 1% at fault for the collision, you will not be able to recover for the injuries you suffered in the accident. However, there are exceptions in Washington, DC as set forth below. 

Washington, D.C.’s Vulnerable User Act and Auto Accident Claims

Accidents involving pedestrians, bicyclists, and other “vulnerable users” such as e-scooter riders have a different fault system. In 2020, D.C. passed the Vulnerable User Collision Recovery Act. Under this law, vulnerable users of the roadway are entitled to extra legal protection if they are injured in an accident caused by a car driver’s negligence.

For example, if you cause an accident and the person injured was riding a bicycle, you will be liable for their injuries unless they are determined to be more than 50% negligent. 

Determining fault in a car accident can be complex, but it’s important to understand how your state’s laws may impact the value of your auto accident claim, so you can know what to expect if you are ever involved in a crash.

What to Do After a Car Accident

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, there are a few important steps you should take to protect your rights and ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

First, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately, even if you don’t think you’ve been injured. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent, and it’s important to get a complete evaluation from a medical professional to ensure you don’t have any hidden injuries.

Next, you should contact an experienced car accident lawyer who can help you navigate the claims process, deal with the insurance companies, and fight for the full value of your claim.

It is important not to admit fault or sign any documents from the insurance company until you have spoken to a lawyer. Insurance companies will often try to get accident victims to give recorded statements or sign release forms that waive their right to full compensation.

Don’t fall for these tricks – it’s always best to speak to a lawyer before giving any statements or signing any documents.

At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our experienced car accident lawyers have helped countless accident victims get the compensation they deserve, and we’re here to help you too. Contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll review your case and answer your questions so you can make the best decisions for your future.

What If The At-Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?

If the other driver is at fault and doesn’t have insurance, you can still recover compensation through your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. You should also be aware that in some cases, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. In a personal injury lawsuit, you can recover additional damages, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • Emotional distress

An experienced car accident lawyer can help you understand what types of compensation you may be entitled to and fight for the full value of your claim.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Washington, D.C.

If you are looking for the highest level of representation available for your personal injury case, turn to Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. Our firm has helped clients recover more than $500 million in compensation, and we have more than 100 years of combined experience. All of our partners are recognized by Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers®, and our firm includes three past presidents of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

 We work to help our clients obtain fair settlement offers to compensate them for the injuries they’ve suffered, but our attorneys are extremely well-equipped to go to trial if needed. Call (202) 659-8600  or contact us online to get the proven legal representation you deserve.

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