How fault is determined in a car accident

Updated February 15, 2024  |   Published September 18, 2023

When a car accident occurs, typically an insurance company will pay for any damage if the total amount of damages is greater than your deductible. If only one car is involved in an accident, it’s simple to determine the car that is at fault for the accident. If there are two or more cars involved, the process gets more difficult. Read on for useful information about how fault is determined in a car accident.

What is an at-fault car accident?

An at-fault accident only occurs in states that do not require personal injury protection coverage for vehicles. Massachusetts is one of these states; for information on what other states require personal injury protection, click this link. In the states of at-fault accidents, the driver found responsible for causing the accident will be required to pay for all damages, including medical costs and property damage expenses. Often, fault is shared between two or more drivers involved in the accident; in these situations, both auto insurance companies will be required to pay some percentage of the total cost, but one party will pay the majority.

How do insurance companies determine fault in a car accident?

In most cases, insurance companies will determine who is at fault based on state laws and regulations. The state laws that will be followed are the laws of the state in which the accident occurred, not the state of residency of one or both of the parties involved in the accident. Insurance companies will also review other facts related to the accident to get full context of the situation. These facts include weather conditions, physical evidence, police report details, and statements made by those involved in the accident and third-party eyewitness accounts. Negligent driving will also be considered if the police report outlines that it was a contributing factor. Negligent driving is identified as driving in a way that a reasonable person would not under the same circumstances.

How to work with your insurance company after an accident

It can often be difficult to prioritize your actions after being in an accident. Which is completely understandable with the stress and duress that you can be under. To make things easier for you, we’ve included a list of actions that you should take to do them.

Report the facts.

Admitting fault to your insurance company after a car accident is never a good idea. But do make sure you detail what happened from your point of view. Just report the facts and nothing else.

Gather and submit evidence.

If you took pictures and collected contact information from other drivers and/or witnesses, pull this data together. Your insurance agent will tell you how they want you to submit it to determine who is at fault.

Share the police report.

If the police came to the scene of the accident and made a report, let your agent know. Find out if they want you to get the report or if they will get it for you.

File the claim.

Later, when you get a chance to talk to your agent in a safe location, ask how to start the process of filing a claim to repair damage after the accident.

Will being at fault affect my insurance premiums?

If it’s determined that you have been found at-fault in a crash, your insurance rates won’t automatically rise. They might not rise at all. Your insurance company will look at several factors before making any rate determinations. They’ll review your driving record and the circumstances around the accident.

If you have accident forgiveness on your policy, your rates may not go up. If your premium does increase, your next step is to start fresh and reestablish your good driving record. One accident won’t affect your rates forever. The most important thing is to not be too hard on yourself. Mistakes happen, and what matters most is that you get back up and start fresh.

If you still have questions about filing a claim, visit “How to File an Insurance Claim on Your Car”.

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