Who is At Fault in a Car Accident?
Even if you haven't been involved in an Indiana car wreck, you may wonder how the insurance adjuster, police, lawyers and juries determine responsibility for a car crash. Determining fault is important for number of reasons, but it isn't always easy to do. If you are at fault for a car accident, it can impact you criminally and civilly so let's take a couple of minutes and look how different parties go about the process. Who determines fault? In Indiana most investigating police offers do not determine fault. I've not seen a lot of reports where a driver is given a ticket unless the driver has broken a law, like speeding or drunk driving. In most car wrecks the insurance companies who insure the drivers involved in the wreck make a fault determination. When insurance adjuster investigates a particular crash, she will talk to her insured, maybe some witnesses if there are any, review the police reports, and any other evidence that may be available. The insurance adjuster does this to try to determine who is at fault for the crash. If the crash involved serious injury or death, the insurance company may hire an accident deconstructionist immediately to go out to the scene and preserve any available evidence, like skid marks and bodily fluids on the roadway. The accident re constructionist will also document the vehicles involved in the wreck and possibly down load the data recorder or black box information.
Negligence – Carelessness – Fault
In order to determine fault, your insurance company or lawyer will try to determine how the drivers acted shortly before the crash. Negligence is a legal term that means the driver did not act reasonably. When discussing negligence, some court's couch the questions, did the driver act as a reasonably prudent person under the same or similar circumstances? For our benefit let's act the question did the other driver act carelessly? In some car accidents it's pretty obvious who was negligent. For example, if you are stopped at a red light and a driver crashes into your rear-end because she was on her phone updating a Facebook post, it is clear that the driver was careless or negligent. In these situations it doesn't take long for the insurance companies to determine fault. These types of accidents are often referred to as “clear liability” accidents. However, other cases are not as clear-cut. In such situations the insurance adjuster and your lawyer will have to look at other evidence.
In my experience, insurance companies rely on police reports pretty heavily, however, they usually contain a lot of wrong information and sometimes they are just incorrect. Whenever the police investigate an accident, they write a report but remember the police officer did not see the accident and some are pretty good at getting detail and pay attention to detail, and others, find investigating car accidents a chore. In most car accidents, Indiana police officers do not issue a ticket; however, if a ticket is issued, the insurance adjuster will usually stop their investigation there and accept responsibility for the accident.
Comparative Fault or Negligence
In some situations it isn't clear that the crash was entirely one driver's fault. For example, there could be an intersection collision where both drivers say they have the right of way or the driver who hit you in the rear may say that you cut them off and that is why the accident happened. In these cases, the insurance adjuster may take the position that you were partially at fault for the crash. Typically, the adjuster will decrease the amount of money offered by the percentage of fault they assess to you. Indiana is a modified comparative fault state, which means that if you are found to be greater than 50% at fault for the accident, you are not legally entitled to compensation for the damage to your car or the injuries that you sustained In these situations, it is best to get a consultation from an experienced car accident lawyer. So there you have it. Determining fault in a car accident can range from simple to difficult. It all depends on the facts and circumstances of the wreck so it is very important that you document everything to the best of your ability at the accident scene because you never know when you will need the information to show the other driver was at fault for the crash. If you have any questions about an Indiana car accident, you can call Guy DiMartino Law at (219) 690-8997. Photo Attribution: Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Guy DiMartino Law, 1411 S. Woodland Ave. Suite D, Michigan City, IN 46360