Although it may seem like common sense, determining fault in a car accident isn’t always obvious or straightforward. What may seem clear to you may in fact be correct. But in Alabama, as in the rest of the country, the at-fault driver isn’t going to want to admit fault — and neither will their insurance company.
It’s to your advantage to understand how to determine fault in a car accident. At the very least, so you can recognize when someone else is doing it wrong, or — more likely — trying to take advantage of you. In the end, you’ll have to depend on the authorities to make the final decision.
If you’re wondering if you’ve been treated fairly in a recent car accident, Petro Accident & Injury Attorneys can help. In this article, we’ll tell you what to look for when determining actual fault.
Fault Is Not Always as Obvious as It Seems
Many factors are at play in any car accident, and “insurance politics” will be at play in the aftermath. You may find yourself in a dispute even when you’re certain you how the accident happened … because you rarely have the final say. If that’s the case, it may be time to reach out to a car accident lawyer, whether uncertainty arises in how to determine fault in a car accident, or someone’s just plain wrong — or lying.
Who Is Responsible for Determining Fault in a Car Accident?
People with a hand in determining fault in any accident include:
- Accident investigators.
- Police officers at the scene.
- Insurance companies.
- Insurance regulators.
While rear-ending someone doesn’t automatically result in you getting all the blame anymore (thanks, insurance regulators!), certain factors still weigh for or against you. The first things police officers on the scene will try to figure out is the “primary collision factor” (PCF) — that is, the accident’s main cause. They will try to determine who was mostly at fault. Typically, driver error is the PCF, though weather, road condition, mechanical failure, and even external factors like animals in the road can contribute.
Meanwhile, accident investigators analyze the cars, damage, and crash site to determine fault, while insurers make their own decisions on fault, and who they believe should pay the damages. The police report usually gets the most weight when all of the above get together to decide how to determine fault in a car accident.
Can Drivers Share Fault?
Yes, but it hurts all drivers who share fault. As of late 2018, the Cotton State uses the “pure contributory negligence” standard for car accidents (thanks not so much, insurance regulators). That means that if you’re assigned any fault at all, you can’t claim damages from the person who hit you. It doesn’t matter if you’re cleared of 99% of fault, you’re still out of luck due to that 1%. It’s no surprise, then, that insurance companies sometimes go to absurd lengths to fight for shared fault, which forces your own insurance company to pay for your damages.
Working Out Insurance Claims
This doesn’t mean you can’t seek compensation against an at-fault driver. If the investigators assign full blame to the other driver(s), their insurance company may accept the ruling without complaint and agree to pay for the damages and repairs. Otherwise, you can take them to court; and if the preponderance of the evidence collected by the police and investigators demonstrates full fault on their behalf, you can still receive the compensation you need (and possibly more), especially if you’ve suffered permanent disability or if the accident will impact you long-term.
What to Do If You Are Assigned Minor Fault
Even if the other insurance company won’t pay damages because they investigators assigned you some fault, don’t give up. The other insurer may offer a negotiable settlement. If not, you may still be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver(s) who hurt you. This is when you need an auto accident attorney on your side the most.
Unsure How to Determine Fault in a Car Accident in Alabama? We Can Help
If you have questions about how to determine fault in a car accident, contact Petro Law Firm for a free consultation. We can help with your car accident claim.