Determining Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident
In some states, like Florida, Michigan, and New York, just to name a few, it doesn’t matter who is to blame for an accident since they follow a no-fault policy by which each driver’s insurance will cover his or her damages in the case of an auto accident (there are twelve states that observe such laws). But in the majority of states it is important to figure out who is at fault since it will determine which driver’s insurance must pay for damages. In other words, it is in your best interest to prove that the other driver was at fault so that your own insurance won’t have to pay out, followed by a rate hike at best, or a loss of coverage at worst. Of course, if you’re at fault you should own up to it and accept the consequences of your actions. But if the other driver was to blame there are certainly steps you should take in order to ensure that the police and/or insurance providers deliver the same verdict.
The place to start, if you have the presence of mind, is by noting pertinent information, such as the make, model, and license plate number of the vehicle that caused the accident, as well as anything you can immediately discern about the driver (male, female, looks, build, age, etc.). This is important just in case it ends up being a hit and run situation. Take a picture of the car with your camera phone, especially if you can’t get out of your own vehicle due to surrounding traffic, an injury, or other safety concerns. Next, call the police. If there is an injury they will have to respond. If no one has been hurt they may advise you to proceed on your own and call your insurer.
Once you have done this you can move ahead with gathering evidence. You should note the exact time, date, and location of the accident. If it is safe to leave the vehicle, approach the other driver to trade insurance information. Take plenty of photos in case you have to go to court to sue for damages (or to defend against a lawsuit by the other driver). Take close-ups of damage to both cars, as well as establishing shots that show the area where the accident occurred. Talk to any witnesses (bystanders or other drivers that have pulled over to help) in order to get contact information and statements for the insurance company. Then record your own account before you start to forget the details. With enough evidence and witnesses in your favor you should never have to go to court – unless, of course, the other driver is uninsured and you’re suing for damages.
When it comes to determining fault in an accident, it is extremely rare to find that no one is actually at fault. This means that you were at fault, the other driver was at fault, or some third party caused the accident and escaped. Of course, natural disasters and freak occurrences do happen, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that an honest-to-God no-fault accident could take place. But most of the time it will be the fault of one driver or another, and establishing just who is to blame is a must if you don’t want to pay for the damages.
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