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Understanding the Role of Fault in Car Accident Claims

More than 2.35 million people are seriously injured in car and truck accidents every year, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel. When combined, these injuries cost the United States more than $230.6 billion annually. Because car accidents cause so much damage, all fifty states have passed laws requiring drivers to carry valid car accident insurance, or self-insure to pay for the damage they may cause.

Depending on where you live, you may be entitled to receive insurance benefits even if you were at fault for your accident. However, fault still plays a central role in determining your right to recovery and the value of your claim in car accident claims. It is also a major factor in a car accident lawsuit, which could be a viable option after your crash.

While it’s important to discuss your case with a qualified attorney before assuming anything about fault, you should have a basic understanding of how fault can affect your car accident claim. At Simeone & Miller, LLP, our seasoned lawyers can help you review your options and learn how fault works in your state.

Fault-Based vs. No-Fault States

Most states use a fault-based system, which means that the driver ruled to be “at fault” will be financially responsible for damages. If you live in a fault-based state, you can file an accident claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company in order to receive any compensation. You may also be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

In contrast, “no-fault” jurisdictions require all drivers to carry personal injury protection or PIP insurance, which will cover the insured’s medical expenses up to a certain monetary threshold, regardless of who was at fault. Of course, any property damage claims may still be fault-based – and even if you do receive PIP compensation for your injuries, it may not be enough to cover your medical bills and other expenses.

How Is Fault Determined?

While fault simply means that the driver has acted in a negligent manner, states apply the concept of fault in very different ways. For example, Maryland upholds the law of contributory negligence, meaning that car accident victims who are ruled to be partially at fault cannot recover compensation. Other states have adopted the law of pure comparative negligence, which allows the parties to collect damages even when they are 99% at fault, with the final compensation reduced by the percentage.

There is also no universal rule about what constitutes a greater share of fault, which can make it difficult for injury victims to determine their own role in the accident. By referencing accident reports, interviewing key witnesses, and talking to experts, attorneys and insurance claims adjusters will attempt to discover what caused the accident – and how liability will be apportioned.

Here are some common driver behaviors that may carry some degree of fault:

  • Distracted driving (such as texting or talking on the phone)
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Failing to use turn signals
  • Making an illegal turn or move
  • Passing through a stop sign
  • Excessive speeding for weather conditions
  • Tailgating or following another car too closely

Your Committed Advocates After a Crisis

Fault is a complicated concept, and injury victims may have a hard time proving they are not responsible for an accident. With the help of a seasoned personal injury lawyer, however, you may have a better chance at securing compensation, whether you’re negotiating an accident claim with an insurer or filing a lawsuit. At Simeone & Miller, LLP, we can fight on your behalf and help you determine fault in your car accident. Licensed to practice in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, we will apply our in-depth knowledge of state laws to maximize your odds of compensation.

Call (202) 888-0872 for more information on our legal services.