If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you know it is an incredibly unexpected and stressful experience. You have to navigate many components – seeking care for medical injuries you might have sustained, repairing or replacing your vehicle, filing insurance claims, and negotiating with insurance companies. However, much of your compensation for these damages depends on who is at fault. Fault determination is essential in any car accident case, yet the process can be confusing. Sometimes an accident is entirely one person’s fault, but other times both parties are responsible for some of the blame, which can affect the total compensation. This article explains the fault determination process and how hiring a car accident lawyer can help you prove who was responsible for the incident.
The Process of Fault Determination
Determining fault in a car accident is a complicated process because of the individuality of each case. Every vehicle incident is different – fault can vary vastly depending on the specific circumstances of the accident and the local laws where the accident occurred. Hiring a personal injury attorney can make a significant difference if you’re intimidated by this complex process.
1. Gather All Evidence
After an accident, the first thing you should do is begin to gather evidence. Record the date, time, location, and all of the other driver’s personal information, driver’s license, and plate numbers, and make sure you exchange insurance information. You must take photographs at the scene if you are able. Document the damage to the vehicles and bodily harm, and attempt to talk to witnesses to get their statements and contact information. After the incident, try following up on local surveillance footage and police report to bolster your claim further.
2. Insurance Company Investigations
Each insurance company involved will conduct an independent investigation to determine fault. They may contact witnesses for interviews, review evidence such as photographs and police reports, and assess damage to vehicles and bodily injuries caused.
3. Police Reports
When you call the police to the scene of an accident, they will create an accident report. This comprehensive document includes statements from each party and witness, the facts of the accident, and their assessment of fault based on the situation at the scene.
4. Determining Fault By Law
Every state and some local jurisdictions have different rules for determining fault. Some states use comparative negligence systems to assign blame to multiple parties, and others use contributory negligence systems to bar contributing parties from receiving damages. Others still are at-fault and no-fault states. If you need clarification on the complex legal jargon of your local regulations, hiring a personal injury attorney can help you navigate the laws and your rights.
5. Insurance Company Decision
After the insurance company finishes gathering evidence in their investigation and determining fault, they will formally decide who is at fault. They can decide whether either party is entirely at fault or determine the percentage of fault assigned to each driver involved in the accident. At this time, usually, an insurance company will make its first offer of compensation for damages if they believe you are entitled to them.
6. Disputes and Negotiations
Once the insurance company announces its decision, fault can be disputed. If you disagree with their decision, you can engage in negotiations or present additional evidence to argue your case. This is also the best time to negotiate your settlement. Often, insurance companies lowball on their first offer. If you feel you have received an unfair offer, it is important to remain firm. You must account for not only your current expenses associated with the incident but any future wages lost or medical expenses you may encounter and your need for reimbursement.
7. Further Legal Action
If you cannot settle with the insurance company, you can take legal action by filing a lawsuit. When your case goes to court, your lawyer and the insurance company will present evidence during a trial to a judge or jury. Based on this evidence, they will determine the fault and award compensation accordingly.
Different Factors That Impact Fault Determination
Fault determination varies from state to state. Washington State is a comparative fault state, which means that the actions of all parties involved in the accident are considered when determining a settlement. To establish fault, you need to show four key factors: the other driver owed you a duty of care, they breached that duty of care, you sustained injuries because of this breach, and you subsequently suffered losses from these injuries. You may use evidence to support your claims, the facts of the case such as the date, time, weather, eyewitness testimonies, and injuries and damages. If your actions or negligence contributed to the cause of the accident, you may be found partially at fault. In this case, you will receive less compensation than if the other party was entirely at fault.
Should I Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Citizens may legally represent themselves in personal injury cases in Washington State when filing insurance claims or lawsuits. However, in most cases, hiring a personal injury attorney is beneficial. This is especially important if you have sustained significant injuries, loss of work, or personal property damages. A lawyer can help you navigate argumentative insurance companies and comparative negligence and guide you if your case has to go to court. Attorneys help prepare your claim, collect evidence for fault determination, and help you disprove allegations of contributory fault. Finally, a lawyer can help you negotiate a settlement that maximizes compensation for your losses.
How Robert Jones Law Can Help
Determining fault is a complex process that can either help or harm you during a personal injury case. If you recently had an accident in the Bellevue, Washington, area, Robert Jones Law is here to help! Our legal team has years of experience in fault determination and personal injury cases. We spend time analyzing the details of your case, collecting evidence, and building a case. We focus on determining precisely what happened to help you receive the maximum compensation possible. Visit our website to learn more, or schedule a free consultation with our car accident lawyers today!