WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU ARE AT FAULT IN A CAR ACCIDENT?
If you're ever the victim of a car crash — no matter the circumstances — it is your right and in your best interest to file a car accident claim.
After a severe car accident, there may be medical bills to pay, property damages to take care of, and other losses that demand compensation from the at-fault driver's insurance company.
...but what if you are at fault for the crash?
Just because you think you caused the accident doesn't mean there isn't help for you. If you believe you are responsible for a crash, do not panic. Remember, there are systems and processes in place that exist to help resolve the situation.
In this article, I'll explain what to do if you think you're at fault for a car accident. Or if you need assistance now, contact Bruscato and schedule a free consultation to go over your situation.
What To Do After A Crash You Think You Caused
If you think you're responsible for a crash, it's crucial that you remain calm and follow these tips::
Don't Leave the Scene
Whether you were at fault or not, you must remain at the scene of the accident until it's safe and permissible to leave.
If your vehicle is obstructing traffic or causing a safety hazard, move your car out of the intersection or lane of traffic, but do not leave the scene. For safety and security reasons, state laws vary in the specifics of when it is legally acceptable to leave the accident scene. Fleeing the scene of an accident can make the situation even worse by turning into a hit and run accident.
Report the Car Accident
Check for injuries in your car and the other vehicles involved in the accident and report the incident. Call 911 if any serious injuries have taken place. And no matter what — injuries or not — call the police as soon as you can. Do not leave the scene until the police arrive and permit you to leave.
You'll want to exchange contact information with the other party involved in any car accident.
Make sure to exchange names, phone numbers, auto insurance information, and license plate numbers, including the other vehicle's make and model. Additionally, getting the police report afterward from the officer on the scene can help insurance companies determine who was at fault.
The better you can document the details of the accident, the better evidence you'll have to support your insurance claim.
This means you should take photographs of the accident scene, making sure to include vehicle damage, any injuries you suffer, and the location of the crash. If uncontrollable conditions were involved (weather, road surfaces, vehicle malfunction), make sure to document it.
Keep the Details to Yourself
In the aftermath of a car accident, you may be filled with adrenaline and anxiety about the situation. You may also feel compelled to start spouting your thoughts about the situation to the police, to other drivers, to anybody present at the scene of the accident. I will tell you the same thing I tell all of my clients: you must do your best to stay calm and grounded.
Here are a few things not to do in the aftermath of an accident:
Making statements that could suggest you were at fault
Talking openly about who was to blame
Discussing the details of what you were doing before the crash took place
If asked, go ahead and provide the basic details of the car accident — that is, the facts — but don't volunteer anything that would suggest blame or admit fault. Don't say you were distracted on your cell phone or changing the radio station while driving. Save these details for when, and only when, you speak to an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can help protect your rights and resolve the situation as best as possible.
Contact Your Insurance Company
If you were injured during the accident, seeking medical treatment is the priority. After you've tended to your injuries, the next important step is to notify your insurance company. When you make the call, tell them that an accident occurred, but do not tell them the specific details of the accident.
After you've notified your car insurance company, I recommend you contact an experienced car accident lawyer. If you believe you were at fault, a lawyer can be an invaluable resource to help you evaluate your situation and your options.
What Damages Are Covered If You're At Fault In a Car Accident?
In personal injury cases, losses (economic or non-economic) that resulted from someone's negligence are called "damages." Damages may include:
Pain and suffering
If you were the at-fault driver in a car accident, your insurance policy would cover these damages.
However, if the damages exceed your car insurance policy limits or if the other person driving actions to take you to court, then it may be your responsibility to cover the additional costs.
In most minor car accidents, the insurance companies will agree to a settlement with the injured driver. Usually, it is only accidents that involve serious injury or death that get taken to court.
What Will Insurance Cover If You're At Fault?
After the dust has settled, you'll need to explore your insurance coverage options.
The type of car insurance coverage you carry and the state you reside will significantly impact what will be covered by insurance.
Here's what you should know if you were at fault for the accident.
Fault-Based vs No-Fault States
Most states in America have "fault" insurance laws that are used to determine financial liability for a car crash.
In a fault-based state, the victim files an insurance claim with the at-fault driver's insurer, who is liable for any losses and damages of the other drivers, passengers, or anyone else harmed by the car accident. These liabilities may include collision coverage, vehicle damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical bills.
In "no-fault" states, of which there are only a few, drivers are legally required to carry Personal Injury Protection coverage (PIP) or a comparable form of liability coverage. This kind of driver's insurance comes into play after an accident has occurred. It pays for any economic losses suffered by the policyholder, no matter who was at fault for the car accident.
Liability For Vehicle Damage
No matter if you were the at-fault driver or not, your insurance will cover the other party’s vehicle damage. Collision coverage service will help pay any expenses related to damage to your vehicle. Collision insurance typically has a deductible that must be paid first before the insurance kicks in.
Liability for Bodily Injury
Bodily injury insurance coverage is especially helpful if you're at fault for an accident. This type of insurance helps cover the cost of injuries to passengers and drivers of all vehicles involved. Bodily injury coverage also helps cover expenses related to pain and suffering, legal fees, lost wages, and even funeral costs.
Will My Insurance Rates Be Affected?
If you were found to be at least 50% responsible for the car accident, then your insurance premiums are likely to go up. However, some policies offer "accident forgiveness" if you go without another accident for a long enough period. Accident forgiveness is something that needs to be purchased in advance from an insurance agent, not after an accident has occurred.
How Do Insurance Companies Determine Fault?
As you learned above, most states view car accidents as fault-based. This means that someone must be held responsible, even if the fault is shared between multiple drivers. Here are a few factors insurance companies consider when determining fault in a car accident:
Police reports — A police report is a crucial piece of evidence because it consolidates the accident's facts into one objective resource.
Evidence from the accident scene — Evidence and documentation you collected from the scene will be used as resources to help determine fault. Insurance companies need as much evidence as possible to understand the full story
Eye witness testimonies — The insurance company may reach out to witnesses who were present at the accident scene to get a new perspective on what happened.
What If You're Only Partially At Fault?
Most fault states recognize "comparative negligence," which means fault for an accident can be split between multiple parties.
According to the Louisiana Civil Code section 2323, Louisiana is a pure comparative fault state. This means that the number of damages you can claim from the accident is reduced by the same percentage of your involvement (your percentage of fault) in causing the crash. In simple terms, the more at-fault you are, the fewer damages you stand to recover.
In the state of Louisiana, there are no empirical means of establishing fault. That means it will be up to you to persuade and negotiate with an insurance claims adjuster, or potentially a judge or jury if the matter gets taken to court. You need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you deal with sly insurance adjusters who can very quickly make your life miserable.
Finding Fault Isn't Always Easy; A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
No matter if you believe you were at fault or not, car accidents cases are never as easy as you think. Accidents are incredibly stressful, but remember to stay calm and refrain from admitting fault or making comments that might incriminate yourself.
If you or a family member might be at fault for a car accident and need assistance with your auto accident or personal injury claim, Bruscato Law Firm is ready to help. John Bruscato is an experienced car accident attorney with nearly 10 years of experience serving clients in Monroe. To schedule your free consultation and discuss your case's details, just call us at 318-855-1613 or visit us online to schedule an appointment.