When you're involved in a car accident, it's easy to play the blame game. Obviously no one intended to cause the accident and both people have their own reasons to think it's the other person's fault. It's human nature. Whether you, or the other party, caused the accident can have a major impact on claims for personal injuries.
Understanding "No-Fault" Laws
Just because you live in a no-fault state doesn't mean who is at fault doesn't matter. In no-fault states, like Florida, no-fault insurance just means that there are certain benefits paid through your own insurance, regardless as to who caused the accident. However, fault is factor in claims for pain and suffering in Florida.
Why Fault Is Important
Whether you live in a fault or no-fault state, determining fault determines who's financially responsible for the accident. No matter how injured you are, if it's determined the accident was your fault, there's usually no one you can successfully sue. In a no-fault state, this means if your damages meet the state threshold for filing suit, you can do so.
However, it bears mentioning that fault isn't always black and white. Sometimes both parties are partially at fault. In those circumstances, it's not uncommon for the damages to be based on a percentage the court determines to be the defendant's part of the fault. So if the court determines the defendant is 60 percent at fault, that means you're 40 percent at fault, meaning that they'd only give you 60 percent of the damages that would otherwise be owed if you had no fault in the accident. It can be very complex, so if you have any questions, you should contact a qualified car accident lawyer to get them answered.
It's likely your insurance company will be just as interested in this information as the court is. Obviously, getting medical attention if it's needed is the vital first step, but as soon as possible and safe, you should obtain photos of the scene, damage to all vehicles involved, witness observations and contact information, etc. You'll also have to exchange insurance information with the other driver.
Don't forget to get a copy of the police report if the police are called. Police reports include things, such as, whether a driver was issued a citation, which can be helpful when determining fault. It's vital that you check the police report and request an amendment if there's an error.
How Fault Is Determined
There are several factors that can help to determine which party is at fault. The points of impact to each vehicle, independent witnesses, police reports, location of vehicles, etc. Other factors may include,
- If an individual is found to have broken a traffic law that causes the accident.
- A citation issued by law enforcement.
- In rear-end collisions, it's generally the driver in the rear who is at fault (for following too closely, not paying attention, etc.). In traffic, a driver has to have the ability to slam on the breaks if they may be in danger, and it's the rear driver's responsibility to follow at a safe distance. However there can be exceptional circumstances.
- In addition to these common factors, other evidence may be considered, which is why it's important to be vigilant in collecting evidence, which is often promptly removed from an accident scene to ensure it's safe for other drivers on the road.
After an accident, you're in a heightened emotional state, which is never a good time to make decisions that can affect your life (or lawsuit). Often saying “I’m sorry” is perceived as an admission of fault. It is best not to speak until you have all the facts and have consulted with an expert.
Determining Fault Before You Sue
If you've been involved in a car accident and have questions about who's at fault or whether it matters, the best course of action is to contact a lawyer. If you're in the Kissimmee, Florida area, you can call the experienced car accident lawyers at Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation.