If you have recently been in a car accident, you might feel like life is a little out of control right now. One minute you were on your way to work. The next, your airbag exploded in your face and your car smashed into the light post. Despite your injuries and days missed from work, all your insurance company seems concerned with is determining fault for the auto accident.
Why is it important to know who caused the car crash?
Car accidents cause a lot of damage. Repairing that damage, whether it is to a person, a car, a career or a family, costs money. People tend to think of “the insurance company” as the one who pays the costs of an accident. But insurance companies are reluctant to pay out; their goal is to pay as little as possible. Also, drivers may be insured through different insurance companies, each arguing that the other company should pay.
Generally speaking, the insurance company for the driver at fault pays for damages up to the policy limit. Some policies contain exclusions, which exempt the company from having to pay in certain circumstances.
What damages must insurance companies pay after a car crash?
Insurance companies can assign costs to the following damages from a car accident. If damage costs exceed the insurance policy limits, the policy holder is responsible for paying the additional amount.
- Harm to people: Physical, emotional and mental harm fall into this category. Costs can include medical care, physical therapy, pain and suffering, mental health treatment, and more.
- Damage to property: Accidents are called car wrecks because cars get smashed. Cars may have dents and scratches, or they may be crumpled like an empty soda can. Vehicles must be repaired or replaced after auto accidents.
- Harm to a career: Physical injuries from a car accident can keep a victim out of work for days, weeks or more. Returning to full-time work can take a while because of ongoing therapy or doctor appointments. Traumatic brain injuries can impact a person’s intellectual functioning for weeks or months. Depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder can interfere with a person’s work performance.
- Harm to Families: The injured person is not the only one who suffers in a car accident. The victim’s family and friends care for the victim and transport him to appointments. They may take over the victim’s home and community responsibilities. Depending on the victim’s injuries, family and friends may also lose the victim’s companionship temporarily or permanently.
Can more than one person be at fault for an auto accident?
Yes, more than one person can cause an auto accident. Who is at fault in a car accident is a trickier question than it seems. Multiple people and multiple factors often contribute to the crash. Perhaps a driver was speeding, but a pedestrian was crossing in the middle of a block. Or maybe a motorcycle took a turn too quickly, and mud and gravel from a recent rainstorm covered the road.
Determining fault for an auto accident involves looking at the entire situation. Road and weather conditions, the placement of traffic signs and signals, traffic flow at the time of the crash, and numerous other details are important factors. That is why investigators and accident reconstruction are often used to develop a comprehensive understanding of the crash site and everything that led up to the accident.
What is comparative negligence?
Since more than one person can be at fault in a car accident, insurance companies and courts need a way to decide who pays for the damages the accident caused. California is a comparative negligence state. This means that fault for an accident is assigned in percentages based on each person’s contribution to the accident.
For example, if two cars crash after both drivers ignore stop signs at a four-way stop, both drivers caused the crash. If a judge finds that both drivers are equally responsible for the wreck, the judge assigns each driver 50% of the blame. Therefore, the drivers can each recover 50% of their damages from the other driver. If the first driver’s damages total $100,000, she can recover $50,000 from the second driver (or that driver’s insurance). If the second driver’s damages total $80,000, he can recover $40,000 from the first driver.
How is fault determined in a car accident?
There is no magic formula for determining fault for a car accident. A thorough examination of all the possible contributing factors is needed. The most important factor, though, is who made the error or errors resulting in the wreck.
While environmental circumstances are relevant (was the road covered with mud or the stop sign hidden behind bushes), the driver’s actions are most important. Drivers must drive safely for the conditions. For example, drivers must slow down or pull over if smoke or rain is too thick to see through. Users of the roads must also obey all laws and traffic signals and signs. Road users include motor vehicle drivers, motorcycle riders, bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, joggers and anyone else walking or riding.
One of the most effective ways to establish fault when it is disputed is through the use of an independent eye witness. Insurance adjuster, Judges and Jurors tend to listen to witnesses who have no stake in the outcome of the dispute. Always try to get the contact information of any and all independent eye witnesses at the scene. It could be the difference between winning or losing your case.
If two people use poor judgment, causing an accident, each will be assigned part of the blame. Insurance companies, lawyers and the people involved in the accident may participate in decisions about fault. If the parties can’t reach an agreement, an experienced car accident lawyer can take the case to court. There, a judge or jury will decide how much each person contributed to the accident.
How can a Long Beach car accident lawyer help?
Determining fault after a car accident is a complicated process. Insurance companies may make quick decisions resulting in a fast settlement offer because they want to close the case quickly and pay as little as possible. These offers usually do not include a comprehensive review of how and why the accident occurred.
After representing car crash victims for 35 years, I know how insurance companies work. I also know how to conduct a thorough crash investigation to figure out who and what contributed to the crash.
Always contact an experienced car accident attorney before agreeing to an insurance company’s car accident settlement.
Your Injuries are Personal to Me
I take every client’s injuries and situation personally. I will work closely with you to understand your individual injuries and needs. We will persist until you receive full compensation. You do not pay anything unless you recover damages for your injuries.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at 888-394-1174 today. You can also use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation. After we talk, you are under no obligations. I offer bilingual services and I am available 24/7 to talk to you about your case.
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