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Here’s How Car Accident Liability is Determined 

By: Anapol Weiss

If you’ve been in a car accident, liability may not always be as cut and dry as it appears. If you want to know how to determine liability in a car accident, your first step is to look at motor vehicle statutes, which may hold someone as liable even if under the common-law understanding of fault, they may have been the injured party. In addition, a shared liability car accident can occur, in which both parties share some blame for causing the wreck.

Because unraveling these layers of potential liability can be complex, an experienced lawyer should be contacted to help you get the compensation you deserve from the insurance company to replace your property and mitigate the financial damage of medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering.

What is Liability?

Car accident liability is an acknowledgment of who is at fault and to what degree in an automobile accident. Based on motor vehicle statutes, after an accident, the authorities or insurance carriers will look at the relevant laws that govern safe driving and decide to what extent and by who they were violated.

In certain accidents, this may be as simple as ticketing a driver for running a red light, which may place the liability solely on their shoulders. For more complex cases such as in an accident on a freeway involving multiple vehicles, lane changes, or potential speed limit violations, it may be the case that one or more party’s actions led to the wreck.

Negligence Versus Recklessness

Another concept that factors into car accident liability is the difference between the most common car crash causes: negligence and recklessness. Recklessness occurs when a driver knows their actions are likely to cause a wreck and chooses to do so anyway. Negligence happens when someone inadvertently violates a rule of the road or makes a simple mistake that leads to a collision.

Running a stop sign and causing a wreck is often negligent, whereas running a stop sign due to being drunk behind the wheel and causing a wreck is reckless. Recklessness almost always comes with the liability in an auto accident due to the egregiousness of the actions.

Partial Negligence

In cases where more than one party is at fault, comparative negligence rules will be used to determine car accident liability. Comparative negligence looks at the errors all parties made, assigning them a percentage of the fault.

This percentage is then used when calculating damages. Each party is only responsible for their portion of damages, which means if you’re in a shared liability car accident, you may still be owed compensation by the other party or their insurance carrier.

As an example, if you’re in a wreck after an improper lane change, the car accident liability might normally fall to you. If the other person struck you because they were speeding in the lane you merged in front of them in, then they can also be at fault. The details and context of the accident will help the courts or insurance companies decide how to determine liability in a car accident with comparative levels of negligence involved. In situations where comparative negligence is a factor, you will definitely want to make sure you work with an experienced personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

How To Protect Your Rights After A Car Wreck

There are steps you can take to minimize your liability after an auto accident and assure you don’t end up with a larger percentage of the comparative negligence than you deserve after a shared liability accident. This can help mitigate your financial risk and make sure that if the worst happens, you have the ability to put your life back together.

Practice Safe Driving

Since car accident liability is determined based on traffic laws, knowing, understanding, and following those laws is your best bet on avoiding accidents and limiting your financial risk if you are involved in a collision. Defensive driving is a great way to avoid accidents and should always be practiced.

Maintain Adequate Insurance Coverage

Maintaining a basic standard of liability coverage is required to operate a motor vehicle, but that minimum standard may not be enough. You want to ensure your insurance has coverage limits that protect you in the case of a shared liability car accident where the other party may be due damages. In addition, certain activities may need special coverage, such as if you’re using your vehicle for deliveries.

Avoid Fault Statements After An Accident

Any statements you make can be factored in when determining car accident liability. Avoid stating that you’re sorry, implying it’s your fault, or taking the blame. State your case to the officer creating an accident report and the insurance company when you file a claim, but let the facts speak for themselves.

Don’t Sign Anything For The Insurance Company Without Carefully Reading It

After an accident, you may receive communications from the other driver’s or your insurance company asking you to sign and accept a settlement, issue a new statement, or absolve them of responsibility for future claims. This could be signing away your rights to compensation if repair or medical bills exceed their initial offer. Always speak to an attorney before signing anything.

Contact Your Personal Injury Attorney

One of the smartest steps you can take after being involved in an auto accident is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who is ready to fight for you. They’ll help you understand how to determine liability in a car accident and make sure your rights are protected. From filing the initial claim to negotiating with the insurance company and representing you in court, they’ll be by your side every step of the way.

Get Your Free Consultation

You can start working with a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer without any cash out of pocket. Contact us to set an appointment for a free initial consultation.

A member of our legal team will talk to you about the specifics of your case, the car accident liability involved, and help you understand your options, and explain how we can work together to get you the compensation you need to cover repairs, medical bills, and lost wages. Let the attorneys at Anapol Weiss fight for you.