Some car accident claims are fairly straightforward because the injuries are minor and everyone agrees on the relevant facts. But in other cases, such as those involving shared liability, it is not uncommon for disputes to arise that complicate and delay the proceedings.
In this blog, we’ll answer three FAQs about car accident claims involving shared liability. If you were injured in a crash and you foresee a liability dispute, it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible. The final settlement or verdict may be reduced by your own percentage of fault, but a seasoned personal injury lawyer can make sure you are treated fairly and help maximize the potential value of your claim.
At the Law Office of Michael D. Waks, we have a history of success in car accident cases involving liability disputes, and we can help you fight for the highest possible compensation. Call (562) 206-1939 to schedule a free consultation.
Read on to learn the answers to three frequently asked questions about car accidents involving shared liability:
1. How Do Insurance Companies Determine Car Accident Liability?
Before we delve into the financial implications of shared liability, it is important that you understand how the insurance company determines liability in the first place. Once you (or, preferably, your attorney) contacts the insurance company to report the accident, a claims adjuster will be assigned to your case and tasked with investigating its cause. It is the adjuster’s responsibility to determine who was liable for the crash and whether your claim should be approved or denied.
It is important to keep in mind that the claims adjuster represents the insurance company—not you. Adjusters have incentive to find reasons to deny or undervalue your claim. The adjuster might sound sympathetic to your situation, but anything you say might be used to dispute liability or the value of your damages. The adjuster might even ask leading questions to get you to admit fault inadvertently or undermine the severity of your injuries. The bottom line: You should let your attorney handle all correspondence with the insurance company.
There are many types of evidence the insurance adjuster might use to determine liability after a car accident. Common examples include:
- The Police Report: If police attended the scene and created an accident report, this document will be a primary source of evidence to determine liability. It will contain statements provided by you and other drivers involved; details about where, when, and how the crash occurred; information about any chemical tests performed at the scene; and other pertinent details.
- The Statements You Provide: It is likely that the claims adjuster will contact you shortly after the accident to get a recorded statement. It is imperative that you DO NOT provide this statement but rather direct the adjuster to your attorney so you don’t say anything that would jeopardize your claim.
- The Statements Provided by Other People: The insurance adjuster will consider the statements of other drivers involved in the crash and perhaps even passengers and eyewitnesses when determining liability.
- Expert Witness Statements: If the facts surrounding an accident seem unclear or if there is a liability dispute, the claims adjuster might bring in an accident reconstruction specialist and other experts to assist with the investigation.
- Social Media Accounts: Social media profiles have become a primary source of evidence for insurance companies. To protect your rights, it’s a good idea to disable your accounts while your case is ongoing, and ask your friends and family to avoid mentioning you, your injuries, your accident, or your case online.
- Other Evidence: Depending on the circumstances of your case, the adjuster might use surveillance footage, black box data, photos of the accident scene, and other evidence to determine liability.
2. How Does Shared Liability Affect Car Accident Settlements?
The answer to this question depends on the state where the crash occurred. California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means damages in car accident claims are reduced by the claimant’s own percentage of fault. Even if you were primarily responsible for the crash, you may still be able to recover compensation, but again, your damages will be reduced by your own percentage of fault.
For example, let’s say you were rear-ended while stopped at a red light. The driver of the other vehicle was texting behind the wheel, but your brake lights were out. In this scenario, the insurance adjuster might conclude that you were 20% liable for the accident since you have a legal duty to perform reasonable maintenance on your vehicle, and that involves making sure your brake lights are working. If you incurred $100,000 in damages, you would be able to recover up to $80,000.
In some cases, there are multiple defendants who share liability. For instance, let’s assume you were a passenger and your driver made an illegal turn. Your vehicle was then hit by another car that was speeding. In this scenario, you might have grounds for a claim against both drivers, and each driver’s insurance would be responsible for covering the percentage of your damages that corresponds to their policyholder’s percentage of fault.
3. How Can an Attorney Help After a Car Accident Involving Shared Liability?
Being found partially liable for a crash can be financially devastating if you incurred significant medical bills, lost income, and other damages. However, just because the insurance company says that you were partially liable doesn’t mean you have to accept their finding.
It is always wise to consult a personal injury lawyer to help you determine what a fair settlement might look like. This is especially true in cases involving shared liability. Your lawyer may be able to help by:
- Determining whether you were in fact partially liable for the crash;
- Making sure your claim accounts for all medical bills, lost income, future damages, and non-economic damages;
- Determining what percentage of fault would be fair given the facts of your case;
- Identifying all potential avenues for pursuing compensation; and
- Handling all correspondence with the insurance company so you don’t inadvertently admit fault or make other mistakes that would compromise your case.
Speak with a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer Today: Call (562) 206-1939
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you were hurt or lost a member of your family in a car accident, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks for representation. Attorney Michael Waks can help you take the necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of a liability dispute, and if one does arise, he can aggressively represent your interests during negotiations.
Stay Prepared with Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF
Even the safest drivers are not immune to collisions. No matter how diligent you are behind the wheel, it is important that you take steps to protect your legal rights and financial wellbeing. Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF was designed to help drivers take the right steps and gather essential evidence at the scene. Click Here to download the .pdf, and keep it in your glovebox so you’re always prepared for the worst-case scenario.
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