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What Happens If I Am at Fault For a Car Accident?

When another driver hits you, you may experience a flurry of emotions, such as anger, disbelief and fear. If you hit someone else, one prevailing emotion you could experience is worry. You may know what to do as a car accident victim, but what about when you become the at-fault party? Understand what happens when you bear fault in a car accident and how insurance companies determine fault.

The Quick Answer

If you cause a motor vehicle accident and have car insurance, your liability coverage takes care of the other driver’s medical bills and auto repairs. Liability coverage does not take care of your injuries or repairs. For that, you must have personal injury protection, collision coverage or MedPay. Drivers in no-fault states take care of their own injuries and car repairs, no matter which person caused the collision.

Other than having the right insurance coverage to pay for the other driver’s repairs and injuries, you may also worry about your coverage premiums after an accident. Expect them to increase the next time you renew your policy. How much more you pay depends on the severity of the accident and your zip code. You could pay higher rates for anywhere between three to five years, but you may not pay higher premiums if you have accident forgiveness as part of your policy.

The Long Answer

If you slam into another car, you could think it seems obvious that you bear fault for the resulting injuries and damages. Despite that, you may benefit from letting your insurance company and the police determine how the accident happened and all factors at play. Examples of evidence that proves fault include photographs, police reports, traffic tickets, where vehicles sustained damage and witness statements.

After gathering sufficient evidence, you could learn that other factors caused the accident. For instance, perhaps the other driver’s vehicle had defective tires that hampered braking ability. Or perhaps you had a defective part on your vehicle that made it hard for you to avoid causing an accident. Perhaps the road you drove on needed repairs the city neglected, which triggered the collision. Either way, you may not bear as much fault as you think. For that reason, drivers should not admit fault in the immediate aftermath of a car accident. They do not have all the facts to take all the blame for what happened.

Even if you caused a motor vehicle crash, you may not be the only at-fault party. The other driver could bear the blame for what happened. Drivers deserve to know how comparative negligence and contributory negligence work.

Comparative Negligence

Under comparative negligence, you may build a partial defense around passing part of the fault onto the other driver. For example, while you sped through a stop sign and hit someone, perhaps the other driver did not look both ways before turning. The other driver bears fault for what happened, too.

Comparative negligence works differently in some states. In pure comparative negligence states, no matter a driver’s degree of negligence, she or he may recover compensation. That applies even if a plaintiff bears more fault than the defendant.

In modified comparative negligence states, an accident victim may only recover limited compensation if her or his fault exceeds a specific degree. For example, in some states, car accident victims may only receive damages if they bear less fault than the defendant. Some states require the accident victim to hold 50% or less fault to qualify for damages.

Contributory Negligence

Under contributory negligence rules, an accident victim cannot recover any damages if the defendant shows the victim bears fault in any way. Because of the rules’ unforgiving results, only a few states still subscribe to the contributory negligence doctrine.

The Insurance Answer

Other than covering the other motorist’s medical treatment and car repairs related to the accident, liability insurance covers more losses. Liability insurance also takes care of diminished earning capacity, lost wages and other financial harm the other person endured. The coverage also includes pain and suffering and other general damages.

If your insurance premiums increase after causing an accident, you may take action to reduce them. Completing a defensive driving class, shopping for lower rates and asking for discounts could lower your premiums.

Speak With an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today

If you hit another driver, you still have legal rights to protect. Let a knowledgeable legal representative from Fielding Law help you determine how much fault you bear before you take on more guilt (and financial responsibility) than you deserve. Call us at 877-880-4090.