How Does Insurance Decide Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident?

Car insurance companies use state laws and the details of the crash to determine who is at fault in a car accident. They also use police reports, statements from the drivers and people who witnessed the collision, and any evidence the drivers collect at the scene of the accident (e.g., photos of the scene, injuries, and vehicle damage).

Relevant State Laws

Some states are more concerned with fault in car accidents than others. Georgia is an at-fault state, so determining fault is very important because the at-fault driver will be liable for vehicle damage, medical bills, and all other accident-related expenses.

Traffic laws are also very important, as a driver may be fully or partially at fault if they were breaking the speed limit or violating any major traffic laws at the time of the collision.

Laws concerning negligence are the most important in any car accident. Although insurance companies settle most car accident claims outside of court, all parties must be prepared to go to trial, and in car accident cases, the question is always: “Who was negligent?”

In Georgia, both drivers can be negligent, but only one (1) driver can “cause” the accident or be more than 50% at fault. If you are more than 50% at fault for your collision, you may not recoup expenses from the other driver because you effectively caused the accident. This is called modified comparative negligence. Using comparative negligence, the other driver’s insurance company will only pay for the percentage of fault they take responsibility for.

For example, if you were speeding and someone else ran a stop sign, you may be 20% at fault for your accident, and the person who ran the stop sign will pay 80% of your damages. If you both ran a 4-way stop sign, and the other driver was not speeding, you would not be able to make a claim because you would likely be more than 50% at fault for the accident.

Conversely, if a drunk driver hits you while you are obeying all relevant traffic laws, the drunk driver may be 100% at fault for the accident and be responsible for 100% of your damages.

Usually, the police have an opinion about who is at fault, and insurance companies break things down by percentage of negligence.

The Police Report

If you get into a car accident, call the police. Georgia law requires you to call the police for any accident resulting in death, injury, or damage over $500. Additionally, the police can help determine who is at fault for an accident.

How The Police Help Determine Fault

At the scene of the accident, responding officers have 2 jobs:

  1. To find out if anyone is hurt and call for medical help
  2. To assess the scene and determine what happened

While at the scene, police will investigate the crash and prepare a police report with details of the accident. In most cases, the responding officer draws a diagram of the scene and collects statements from the drivers and witnesses.

Sometimes, police officers will also note special circumstances, like cell phone use, speeding, or driving under the influence (DUI), and make a citation. Traffic citations can be used as evidence that one driver was negligent. In some cases, police officers even use their professional judgment to make a statement about who was at fault for the accident.

How to Make the Most of the Police Report

When talking to the police, stay calm and keep your story straight. Simply tell the officer about the facts and depict your experience. Do not speculate or talk about fault. Ask for the officer’s name and a copy of the police report and know that you and your insurance company will use this report throughout your car accident claim.

The Details of the Accident

If the police do not decide who is at fault, or the insurance company disagrees, your insurance adjuster will investigate the accident and use the details to determine fault.

The insurance company will use photos, maps, witness statements, medical records, and special algorithms to calculate fault. Any evidence you can provide from the scene of the accident will be helpful. Sometimes, the damage on your vehicle will tell a simple story of a rear-end collision or a left-hand turn accident where fault is clear.

Before leaving the scene of the accident or even the hospital, take a deep breath and write down everything you remember about the crash, including anything the other driver said or did. If any witnesses approached you, copy down their name and contact information.

Provide all the evidence you have to your insurance company, and if you feel like your insurance company is not representing your best interests, speak to an attorney about your legal options.

Busch, Reed, Jones & Leeper, P.C. is always available to help you through the aftermath of a car accident. We are a small-town firm with big city experience, and with 150+ years of combined professional experience, we know how to serve you best.

Call us at (770) 629-0154 or contact us online to discuss your car accident and concerns with an experienced personal injury attorney during a free consultation.

While you cannot always trust insurance companies to protect your rights and legal interests, our legal team is 100% dedicated to you – call or click to learn more today.

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