After any car accident, the question of which driver was at fault for the crash is of critical importance in establishing who is liable for damages, and how large a settlement the injured parties are entitled to. State laws vary in regard to how fault is determined, and how monetary compensation is calculated. A personal injury lawyer in your state can provide further guidance and help you determine how much your case is worth.
New York, for example, is a pure comparative negligence state. That means that the recoverable damages may be reduced in a manner that is proportionate to the individual’s fault. For instance, if a person is 20% responsible for the accident, that person’s settlement may be reduced by 20%.
On the other hand, New Jersey is a modified comparative negligence state. This rule follows the same general guidelines as pure comparative negligence states. However, if the individual’s fault is greater than 50%, that person cannot recover damages.
It’s not unheard of for an insurance company to try to pin the blame for an accident on the driver who is not covered by that insurance company. If you feel that you’re being unfairly blamed for a crash, it’s definitely time to consult a car accident lawyer.
How insurance adjusters approach a car accident claim
Each claim filed with an insurance company is assigned to an insurance adjuster. It’s the adjuster’s job to review the accident, oversee the investigation into its causes, and handle the claim settlement. The major question that the adjuster will seek to answer is which party was at fault for the accident. To arrive at this answer, an insurance adjuster may review the police report, speak to both drivers, contact eyewitnesses, and examine medical records. Insurance adjusters also examine damage inflicted on the vehicles.
Based on this evaluation, the insurance adjuster will determine which driver was at fault for the car crash. If both drivers were partially at fault, the adjuster may assign a percentage of fault to each driver.
How insurance adjusters determine fault through negligence
The legal definition of negligence can have variations from one state to the next. Insurance adjusters will turn to the legal definition of negligence for the state in which the drivers live when they are determining fault. In general, a driver is negligent when he or she fails to exercise the same degree of caution that would ordinarily be expected of a reasonable driver under similar circumstances.
Another important consideration is the federal, state, and local traffic laws that apply. Insurance adjusters will carefully scrutinize the police report, eyewitness statements, and the statements of both drivers to determine whether either driver may have violated a traffic regulation. If so, the next step is to consider whether that violation may have contributed to an accident. For example, if a driver was speeding immediately prior to the accident, it’s generally presumed that speeding was likely a factor. Other violations might not be relevant to fault determination, however. If a driver had a malfunctioning brake light when he ran a red light and crashed into another car, the malfunctioning brake light isn’t relevant to the crash—but running the red light certainly is.
How car accident victims can avoid being found at fault
It’s always good practice to obey all traffic regulations. Exercising caution while on the road can help you avoid getting into a crash, as well as avoid being blamed for one that does occur. If you didn’t violate any traffic laws, then the insurance adjuster would have a harder time attributing the cause of the accident to your actions. In addition, car accident victims should avoid making statements to the insurance adjuster without first discussing the matter with a car accident lawyer. They should also avoid inadvertently admitting to fault at the scene of the crash, such as by apologizing.
Get the legal representation you need after a car accident
A New York car accident lawyer can help you recover maximum compensation for your injuries and property damage after an accident. If you’re being unfairly blamed for an accident, or if the insurance company is offering you a check that’s far too low, it’s time to get the legal representation you deserve. Call the law office of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman to request a one-on-one consultation with a personal injury lawyer. Our legal team has provided personalized, attentive legal services for our clients for over four decades.