Judging whether a driver is at fault or just being negligent in a motor vehicle accident is never an easy task. We can readily determine negligence if a person is driving above the required speed limit or if a driver failed to stop at a red stop sign unless there is an emergency situation or where the designated driver is clearly drunk or intoxicated which caused a collision with another vehicle, structure or person. In such cases, the court has the power to apportion the damages between the parties according to the degree of each party’s responsibility for the accident. Where one party shares responsibility for an accident, that party will then be determined as being contributorily negligent.
While there are cases where accountability can easily be determined, in many cases, it is almost always impossible to say that only one party in a vehicular accident is at fault.
Determining which party is to blame for a motor vehicular accident is a critical step in the process of filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. The determination of fault has a direct connection with the outcome of a claim and case. You can always expect both parties to disagree as to who is at fault for the accident.
Canada law states that the party who is responsible for the accident is usually legally responsible for the injured party’s damages. In some cases, more than one party may be at fault for the accident. In these situations, the fault may be appropriately proportioned to the people involved in the accident. Here are some guiding principles that usually help in clearly outlining the accident and identify accountability.
Understanding the process of determining fault
Whenever an insurance claim is filed, the first part of the process that an insurance adjuster must complete is determining how the accident occurred. The insurance company may evaluate evidence and circumstances involved in the accident to determine whether the insured is responsible for the accident or if the other driver or party is responsible.
Review Your Police Report
If you get into an auto accident and file a claim with your insurance company, chances are that one of the first things they will ask you is whether or not a police accident report is made. The police report is one of the most critical sources of information in any motor vehicle accident. This report will often be the primary basis for the court when ruling out culpability. Once a law enforcement officer is called to the scene of an accident, the officer will then get witness accounts and testimonies, and, together with his or her detailed observation of the accident, files the report, making it an official record.
The report may include information about whether the other driver is given a citation or which party the officer believes or perceives to be at fault. Needless to say, insurance adjusters and personal injury lawyers may also base the majority of their decision or consideration on the police report.
Because of the significance of police reports, individuals involved in an automotive or vehicular accident should find time to review any relevant police report and at least try to ask for revisions or amendments if there is any incomplete or inaccurate information or bias.
Basic Information in a Police Report
- Date and Location of the accident. Details are important. Check to make sure everything that applies is included: county; town or city; road, street, route and/or intersection; road marker; railroad crossing I.D. and any distinguishing landmarks. The report should also describe the weather conditions at the time of the accident.
- The Drivers and Vehicles. Make sure that your report has all of the pertinent information for each driver, including name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, and date of birth. It is also important that the report includes full information for each vehicle involved, such as the year, make, and model, as well as the license plate number.
- The Passengers and or Other Witnesses. You need to check if the information in the police report is complete. In many cases, officers will not take down basic information on passengers unless they are injured or killed. But passengers are often the best witnesses to an accident.
Other Admissible Proof or Evidence
Insurance adjusters will also look at actual photos taken from the accident. Oftentimes, the location of the damage on the motor vehicles can help demonstrate which party is at fault for the accident. Insurance officers may also review witness statements or testimonies surrounding the accident.
Admission of Fault
Being involved in a car accident can obviously be a shocking and traumatic experience. In the immediate aftermath of a crash, you may not know whether or not you should admit fault, call the police, notify your insurance company or give an official documented statement. While there are multiple things that you should and should not do, one of the things that can harm your case the worst is admitting fault.
Some individuals may admit fault in the accident. This may be because it is their fault, or they may have perceived it to be their fault, but this perception did not include all relevant information. Insurance adjusters may attempt to assign all of the blame for an accident on a party who apologizes. Due to the potential ramifications of being found at fault for the accident, most personal injury lawyers would readily advise their clients not to admit fault especially at the scene of the accident.
It may be tempting to say that you’re to blame for the accident (especially if you really are and want to clear your conscience), and it may seem natural to say something like, “I’m so sorry!”. But you should know that if you admit fault in a car accident, insurance companies can and will use this admission against you to significantly devalue your claim.
How to React To A Car Accident
The best thing that you can do after a car accident is to check for injuries suffered by yourself or to anyone inside your vehicle or the other vehicle involved. You should ask the other driver if they are okay, and then immediately call the police and file a report. In any case, you must never admit fault when talking to the police. You should, however, report facts as accurately as you can recall them. The next step is to call your insurance provider and notify them of the accident.
Lastly, make sure to consult your lawyer before you give any recorded statement or testimony to help you navigate your way to the situation.
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