What if I Am Partly to Blame for My Car Accident?

May 18, 2024 | Andrew Ruiz
What if I Am Partly to Blame for My Car Accident?

A car accident is always an anxiety-inducing and confusing experience. Among the most pressing questions in the aftermath of the crash is: “Whose fault was it?” Sometimes, however, people may think their fault contributed to the accident and worry that this will automatically disqualify them from seeking compensation. Fortunately, you may still obtain compensation for your damages and losses even if you think you were partly to blame. However, it is never a good idea to make assumptions regarding fault before (1) you speak with a car accident lawyer and (2) your lawyer takes the time to investigate your crash.

Take immediate action to consult a car accident attorney near you before assuming you are at all responsible for your crash.

Can You Get Compensation if You Were Partly to Blame for the Accident? 

The laws in your state determine whether you are entitled to financial compensation after a car accident in which your fault played a role. For reliable legal advice, have a car accident lawyer review your situation.

No-Fault Insurance Laws

Partly to Blame for the Car Accident

Some states adhere to no-fault insurance systems for auto accidents. It means that when a car accident occurs, each party files a claim with their own insurance company to claim personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. This means that your own insurance policy is the first place you turn to for compensation for medical bills and lost income up to the limits of your policy.

The no-fault system is designed to reduce the number of lawsuits in the aftermath of car accidents. However, it also means there are limitations on when you can step outside this no-fault system to pursue a claim directly against the other driver (such as in cases of severe injury).

The no-fault insurance system can benefit you when you might share some blame for an accident, as these benefits are available regardless of fault. Always have your car accident attorney handling your no-fault PIP claim to ensure you receive the maximum benefits and identify when you might qualify to file a third-party claim, as well.

Injury Laws Might Allow You to Recover Even if You Share Some Fault

Now, what happens in situations where fault is shared between multiple parties in fault-based claims?Whether you are in a fault-based state or filing a third-party claim in a no-fault state, the law might entitle you to some compensation, even if you partially contributed to the crash.

These laws ensure that even if you were partly at fault for the accident, you can still recover compensation proportional to the degree of the other party’s fault. This is significant because it acknowledges that accidents often result from complex interactions between road users and that fault may not be entirely one-sided.

Determining Fault in Car Accidents

When you have been in a car accident, establishing fault is crucial. Understanding who is at fault determines who should be held financially responsible for damages and injuries sustained during the crash. Since every

  • Traffic laws dictate how drivers should behave on the road and, when violated, can directly contribute to accidents. Understanding local and state traffic laws can provide insight into whether any party’s actions (or lack thereof) breached legal duties on the road. For example, speeding—the most common traffic law violation—was a factor in 29 percent of all fatal traffic collisions in recent years.
  • Traffic violation tickets. Often, the first piece of evidence that will be considered when determining fault after a crash is any traffic violation tickets issued by responding law enforcement officers. If a driver is cited for a traffic violation at the scene, this can be a strong indicator of fault. However, receiving a ticket does not automatically make you fully or partly to blame. Conversely, not receiving a ticket does not mean you won’t be considered at fault.
  • Police reports. When law enforcement responds to an accident, they will typically prepare a police report containing the officer’s observations and opinions on who was at fault, statements from the drivers and witnesses, and other key information about the crash. While the report itself is not a definitive statement of liability, insurance companies take the information in those reports very seriously.
  • Witness statements. Independent accounts from witnesses can provide unbiased perspectives on how a car accident occurred and who may be at fault. While the credibility and relevance of witness statements can vary, they often play a key role in post-accident investigations, especially when other pieces of information are unavailable or insufficient.
  • Photographic and video evidence. In the era of smartphones and dashcams, photographic and video evidence may carry much weight in determining fault. Pictures taken at the accident scene – particularly those showing vehicle damage and positioning, road conditions, and traffic signs – can provide objective details that support or contradict the involved parties’ accounts. Similarly, dashcam footage has revolutionized how clearly fault can be determined in many cases.
  • Insurance company investigations. After an accident, each driver’s insurance company will usually conduct its own investigation to understand the circumstances behind the crash. The insurance adjusters may also visit the accident scene and inspect the vehicles involved. While you must cooperate with the insurance company during such investigations, you must also know your rights.
  • Your lawyer’s independent investigation. One of the many reasons to get legal counsel after a car accident is that your lawyer can conduct an independent investigation. The findings made during this investigation can be used to challenge the insurance adjuster’s opinion regarding fault. A skilled lawyer will know exactly what to look for to build a strong case on your behalf.
  • Accident reconstruction. Testimony from accident reconstruction experts is a powerful tool used in cases where the fault is disputed. These specialists use scientific methods to recreate the accident’s scenario, helping to understand how and why the accident occurred. Although this approach can be costly, it provides a highly credible assessment of fault.

Remember, while the immediate aftermath of an accident can be overwhelming, collecting as much evidence as possible and knowing your rights will serve you well in the long run. For this reason, it may be worth hiring a lawyer who can gather evidence, build a compelling case for maximum compensation, and negotiate with the insurance company to ensure fairness.

Why the Insurance Company May Blame You for a Car Accident

Insurance companies are businesses first and foremost. Their primary goal is to minimize losses and protect their bottom line. This fundamental principle often sets the stage for why an insurance provider may be reluctant to approve your claim for compensation by saying you have no coverage or that you were partly (or fully) at fault. Here are some of the reasons why the insurance company may blame you.

Reducing Liability

Insurance companies can reduce or completely deny the claim payout by assigning you fault. This is particularly evident in “at-fault” states, where the driver responsible for the accident bears the financial burdens associated with property damage and personal injuries.

Policy Interpretations

Insurance policies are full of complex jargon and ambiguous language that can lead to different interpretations. An insurer might cite a particular policy clause to argue that certain conditions of the accident fall under your responsibility to justify their decision to blame you. However, do not be quick to take the insurer’s word for it. Consult with a lawyer so they can provide you with an accurate interpretation of your policy to avoid manipulations.

Inadequate Evidence

The evidence gathered immediately after the crash might not always tell the full story. If the insurance company does not consider all the evidence submitted when filing your claim, they may base their decisions on incomplete information, leading to inaccurate fault determination.

Insurance companies might try to emphasize your role in the accident to leverage the law to minimize your settlement. When you face accusations of blame, the claim process and negotiations can quickly become complicated. You need the right car accident attorney handling the process to protect the compensation you deserve.

protect your rights

When you have been in a car accident, you may think your own fault may have caused or contributed to the crash. However, your initial assessment of the crash may be erroneous, so you shouldn’t admit your fault just yet. Instead, you should focus on protecting your legal rights as much as possible, as this will affect your ability to obtain compensation later on.

Get Immediate Treatment for Your Injuries

The first and foremost priority after any car crash should be your health. Always. Even if you feel fine initially, some injuries may not be apparent until days after the incident. Seeking immediate medical attention helps properly document your injuries, which can be a crucial factor if you need to pursue a legal claim. Remember, the longer you wait to get checked out, the more challenging it will be to link your injuries directly to the accident.

Take Detailed Notes

Memory can be a fickle friend, particularly after a traumatic event. Write down everything you remember about the accident as soon as you can. Your account of events should include the time, weather conditions, road conditions, and any events leading up to the collision. If possible, take photographs of the scene, your vehicle, and any injuries you sustained. These details can help you later on, both for your legal counsel and when dealing with insurance companies.

Do Not Admit Fault at the Scene

Emotions can run high in the immediate aftermath of a car crash. That is why many people may feel compelled to apologize or admit fault. However, you should avoid making any statements that can be interpreted as an admission of responsibility at the scene. As someone who has just been in an accident, you may not see the full picture. That is why it is best to wait until a thorough investigation has been conducted. What may appear to be your fault initially can actually be the result of factors beyond your control.

Do Not Provide Recorded Statements

Insurance companies routinely request recorded statements in the days (or even hours) following a car accident. While it may seem like a reasonable request, providing such a statement without legal advice can inadvertently harm your claim. Insurance adjusters are specifically trained to ask questions in a way that makes you say something that can be interpreted negatively. When requested to provide a recorded statement by the insurer, it may be best to politely decline and say you want to consult with your lawyer first.

Consider Taking Your Case to Court

Sometimes, insurance companies may be so unyielding during the negotiation process that they won’t accept your version of events. You must be ready to file a lawsuit when that's the case. However, remember that you have limited time to take your case to court. This time is governed by the statute of limitations in your state. For example, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Florida is two years from the date of the accident.

If you miss this deadline, you cannot pursue compensation in court, and insurance companies will make it impossible to obtain a fair settlement, as they know you’ve lost the leverage of litigation. Give your car accident attorney plenty of time to pursue a lawsuit and fight a liability dispute in court when necessary.

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible

Perhaps the most critical – and yet overlooked – step in protecting your legal rights after a car crash is to speak with a lawyer. Your legal counsel can evaluate your case and determine who was at fault and to what extent. When you have a lawyer in your corner, you can avoid the pitfalls that can jeopardize your claim. Many law firms offer free initial consultations, which means you can discuss the facts of your case with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer and get legal advice without making any financial commitments.

Andrew Ruiz

Andrew Ruiz is an associate at Blakeley Law Firm, P.A. and focuses his practice on personal injury, including automobile accidents and slip and falls.  He received a Bachelor in Arts from Florida International University in 2014, and his Juris Doctor from St. Thomas University School of Law in 2019.  He is licensed to practice in all Florida State courts.

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