All motorists have a duty to avoid behaviors that would threaten the safety of other people. Yet every day, millions of drivers breach this duty by speeding, texting behind the wheel, and engaging in other negligent misconduct.
If you were hurt or lost a loved one in a crash that another driver caused, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to dispute liability and attempt to pay claimants less than what they deserve. Insurance providers are businesses after all, so it is important that you take steps to give your claim the best possible chance of success.
In this blog, we’ll discuss:
- Common examples of driver negligence that lead to accidents;
- How insurance companies determine liability after car accidents; and
- Steps you can take to avoid a liability dispute.
Common Examples of Driver Negligence That Lead to Car Accidents
With the exception of cases involving strict liability, “negligence” is the basis of all personal injury and wrongful death cases. A person is considered negligent when they fail to behave with a level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised in the same situation.
Common examples of negligence that lead to motor-vehicle collisions include:
- Breaking the speed limit;
- Driving too fast for the weather or road conditions;
- Following another vehicle too closely;
- Making an illegal turn;
- Changing lanes without signaling;
- Failing to perform reasonable maintenance on the motor vehicle;
- Distracted driving; and
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
How Insurance Companies Determine Liability After Car Accidents
After you file a claim with the insurance company, a claims adjuster will perform an investigation to determine the cause of the accident, the extent of any property damage and injuries sustained, and whether the claim is covered. Bear in mind that claims adjusters represent the interests of the insurance company—not yours—so it is best to let your attorney handle all correspondence them.
The insurance adjuster may ask you for a recorded statement and request that you sign a release so they can review your medical records. You should NEVER provide a recorded statement to the insurance company because anything you say may be misrepresented to dispute your claim. Also, you should not sign any documents from the insurer without your lawyer’s approval.
How the Insurance Company Will Investigate Your Claim
The approach the insurance company will take depends on a variety of factors including their internal procedures; the severity of the accident; and whether the crash involved injuries, property damage, or both. But generally speaking, the insurer will likely take the following steps immediately after you file the claim:
- Asking you for a copy of the police report;
- Discussing the crash with the other drivers involved;
- Speaking to anyone who witnessed the accident;
- Visiting the scene of the accident;
- Taking photos of your vehicle and inspecting it for damage;
- Asking you to sign a medical release; and
- Contacting your doctors to obtain information about your healthcare costs.
The insurance adjuster will also want to review your medical history. If you have any preexisting conditions that contributed to your medical costs, your claim may be reduced.
It is also likely that the adjuster will review your social media accounts for evidence to prove your injuries are less severe than you are claiming. If, for example, you post a photo of yourself participating in strenuous activities, this may be used as evidence that you are exaggerating the extent of your injuries and could lead to your claim being reduced.
It is best to disable your social network accounts entirely until your claim has been settled. Even if your profiles are set to “private,” the adjuster may still be able to send you a connection request and review your information if you accept. Also, the adjuster can review the accounts of your friends and family for photos and posts to use against you, so ask them not to publish anything about you until your case has been resolved.
After investigating your claim, the adjuster will bring together all the evidence and statements from those involved to determine liability. Depending on the circumstances, the insurer might assign all liability to one party or a percentage of fault to multiple parties.
If it is determined that you were partially at fault, your total damages will be reduced by your own percentage of liability. For example, if your claim is for $100,000 but you are found to have been 20% liable for the crash, you would only be able to recover up to $80,000. The state of California uses a “pure comparative fault” system, which means even if you are found to be more than 50% liable for a car accident, you may still be able to recover compensation.
Determining a claimant’s percentage of fault can be a fairly subjective process. Depending on the facts surrounding your case, reducing your claim by just a few percentage points could add up to thousands of dollars in lost damages, so it is important that you enlist the help of an attorney to represent your interests.
At the Law Office of Michael D. Waks, we have extensive experience negotiating with insurance companies in California and helping claimants recover the full compensation they deserve. Call (562) 206-1939 for a free initial consultation.
Steps You Can Take to Avoid a Liability Dispute
We’ve already discussed a few effective ways to prevent a liability dispute, such as disabling your social media accounts, letting your car accident lawyer handle all correspondence with the insurance company, and refusing to provide a recorded statement. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind:
Visit a Doctor Immediately: As a personal injury claimant, you have a duty to take reasonable steps to mitigate your damages. If you put off your medical evaluation, the insurance company might argue that your own negligence contributed to the severity of your injuries.
Follow Your Doctor’s Orders: Even if you undergo a prompt medical assessment, the insurance adjuster might still argue that you contributed to your own injuries if you do not follow your doctor’s orders. Be sure to attend all scheduled follow-up visits, fill your prescriptions, and complete any recommended rehabilitation.
Don’t Return to Work Too Early: When medical bills are adding up and you are unable to earn an income, it is tempting to return to work before it is safe to do so. But again, if your doctor instructs you to stay home, it is important that you obey his or her orders to avoid a liability dispute.
Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Car Accident Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you or someone you love was hurt in a motor-vehicle collision, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks for guidance. Attorney Michael Waks will aggressively represent your interests through every stage of the proceedings and will make sure you are treated fairly by the claims adjuster.
Michael has more than 30 years of experience negotiating with insurance companies and litigating personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. He offers free case evaluations and works on a contingency fee basis, so you have nothing to lose by scheduling a consultation. Call (562) 206-1939 or send us a message online to get started.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF
The process of filing a successful claim begins at the crash scene. Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF will help you record all the necessary details after a collision. Be sure to keep it in your glovebox so you’re prepared for the worst-case scenario.
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