Car accidents can get expensive, with all the property damage, medical expenses, and lost income during the days you missed work. The victim can file a lawsuit against the driver at fault for drunk driving, negligence, or whatever is applicable in your case.
However, several variables are considered in an auto accident before the involved parties can reach a settlement. There’s the matter of proving fault and ensuring insurance coverage, among other considerations.
Keith Zaid Law shares this complete guide on what to do after a car accident when you’re at fault and when you’re the victim.
How to Respond to a Car Accident That Isn’t Your Fault
Many of the steps you take following a car accident are the same regardless of who’s at fault. But if you’re the victim, it’s critical to do everything you can to protect your best interests. Follow these steps to make sure you hold the driver at fault accountable for the accident.
Immediately After the Accident
Call 911 immediately if the damage or injury is serious. Don’t try to work out reparations with the other driver by yourselves. It’s wiser to call the police to record the details of the accident in a report. The offending driver will likely receive a citation or penalty.
The official police report will become part of your accident report, strengthening your case. It will also help you seek accountability from the at-fault driver and make sure you receive compensation.
If the damage isn’t severe, move the vehicles onto the side of the road. Stay out of traffic to prevent an unnecessary jam, which can cause yet another collision.
Gather Relevant Information
Fleeing the scene of a car crash is a felony, but only if you provide sufficient evidence of the crime. The at-fault driver should be responsible for reporting the collision to their insurer. But don’t trust them to do it. Collect all the information relevant to your accident so you have proof to back up your claim when you report to your insurance company or the police.
Make sure you have the following information:
- Name, contact details, and address of the other driver
- License and plate number of the other driver
- Insurance company and policy number of the other driver
- Contact details of the other driver’s insurance company
- Photographs of the accident scene, including skid marks or debris left on the road
- Photographs of the damage on your car
- Photographs of all your injuries
If the other driver is uninsured, they might offer you money upfront to avoid legal repercussions. Do not accept the money. At this point, you still aren’t sure how much your vehicle damage and medical expenses cost. The amount they offer might not even be half of your recovery expenses, so don’t accept the money.
Look for Witnesses at the Scene
Witnesses are often present whenever a car crash happens. It’s important to get their accounts of what happened immediately after the accident. Otherwise, it will be almost impossible for you to find them again.
Ask at least two witnesses to detail how the collision happened from their perspective. Their statements will support your case and prove that you aren’t at fault. You can either write down their story and have them sign it or record their statement on your phone. Don’t forget to get their names and contact information.
Also, get the names and badge numbers of the police officers who arrived at the scene. They can corroborate your story when the insurance companies investigate your case.
Seek Medical Attention
Whether you sustain visible injuries or not, you should see a doctor promptly after the car crash. Your adrenaline spikes when you’re involved in a high-impact collision. This can mask pain and other symptoms after the accident. It means it can take hours or even days before you see or feel your injuries.
Typical car accident injuries like concussions and whiplash often present symptoms late. Seek medical attention so the doctor can check you for fractures, internal bleeding, and other injuries that can be life-threatening when ignored.
Also, if you don’t seek medical attention, insurance companies might assume that the accident isn’t as bad as you said. They might use this to lower your compensation and put you at a disadvantage.
Call Your Insurance Company
Call your insurance company after the accident to inform them about it. They’ll tell you what kind of coverage you have for collisions, personal injuries, vehicle damage, and medical expenses. They’ll also work with the offending driver’s insurance provider to collect your compensation.
It’s also possible for the other driver’s insurance provider to deny responsibility. If this happens, you need to inform your insurer so they can launch a legal challenge against the other insurance company.
If you’re having trouble dealing with your insurance provider or the other driver’s party, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. They can make negotiations on your behalf to make sure that the compensation you receive is fair.
Another critical step to take when you’re the victim in a car accident is to prove that you’re not at fault. If the collision is serious, the other driver might try to deny responsibility. Here’s what you need to do to prove that you’re not at fault.
How to Prove You’re Not at Fault in a Car Accident
The other driver’s insurance company will likely investigate to determine if their client is really at fault. During the investigation, they may contact you to ask for your statement. Be very careful when you talk with any insurance provider – yours or the other driver’s. They might twist your words and use them against you, which would hurt your case and lower your chances of receiving compensation.
This is why you need to gather all the relevant information right after the crash. Make sure the report has all the details necessary to make a liability determination. Your medical bills and records should also tell the insurance companies everything they need to know about your injuries.
Check State Laws
States have varying laws for determining fault in an auto accident. Some states split the blame between the parties involved through comparative negligence laws. In comparative negligence, the amount of damages a driver recovers depends on how much fault can be attributed to them.
Comparative negligence laws typically fall into one of the following:
- Pure Contributory Negligence: Injured drivers can’t collect damages if they share at least one percent of the blame.
- Pure Comparative Fault: Injured drivers can collect damages even if they share 99 percent of the fault. However, the amount is diminished by their contribution to the accident.
- Modified Comparative Fault: States with this law follow either the 50 or 51 percent rule. If a driver shares 50 or 51 percent of the blame, they may not recover any damages for their injuries.
Take Note of No-Doubt Liabilities
Apart from state laws, no-doubt liabilities are another legality you need to check when you get into a car accident. No-doubt liabilities are accidents where it’s almost always guaranteed who’s at fault.
An example of a no-doubt liability is a rear-end collision. The tailing driver is usually at fault for hitting the car in front of them because they’re supposed to keep a safe distance. They’re also expected to hit the brakes once the other vehicle stops – which they obviously didn’t do.
However, the driver in front may still be at fault, depending on the circumstance. For instance, their brake lights might be broken, which is why the tailing driver failed to brake in time.
Knowing these legalities – state laws and no-doubt liabilities – are essential when proving that you’re not at fault for a car crash. They also determine how much damages you can collect. These laws can be difficult to navigate, so a car accident attorney’s legal advice will be precious at this point to strengthen your case.
Now that we’ve covered everything about car accidents that aren’t your fault, let’s move on to collisions that you did cause. Causing a vehicle crash isn’t something anyone prays for, but it’s better to be prepared.
So, what do you do in a car accident if it’s your fault?
How to Respond to a Car Accident That’s Your Fault
The steps you take after a car accident are the same whether you think you caused the crash or not:
- Call the police
- Document the necessary information
- Photograph the scene, vehicles, and your injuries
- Seek medical attention
- Call your insurance company
Do not even think of fleeing the scene of the accident. If you are at fault and you leave, you could face an arrest and serious criminal charges. It’s wiser for you to stay, work out reparations with the other driver, coordinate with your insurance company, and pay the damages.
Seek Legal Counsel
Get the help of an auto accident attorney if you think you’re to blame for the collision, whether wholly or partially. The state’s laws on comparative negligence will apply in your case, and you need legal counsel to make sure it works in your favor. If the other party shares at least one percent of the fault, this can help you lower the damages you have to pay, depending on the laws in your state.
It’s also important to know if your state has no-fault laws on auto insurance, which your lawyer can help determine. In a no-fault state, both drivers receive compensation for their medical bills. It’s paid for by their respective insurers. But in a fault state, the driver who caused the accident must pay damages to the victims.
If you caused the accident and live in a fault state, your insurance policy can cover the damages. The other driver might try to take you to court for more money than your policy can pay. Your lawyer will help you with this situation. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay for the additional costs from your own pocket.
What Compensation Can You Recover if You Cause a Car Crash?
A common question among drivers who caused a car accident is whether they’ll receive compensation or not. The answer is yes. Your insurance policy can cover your vehicle damage if you have collision coverage. Remember that you need to pay your deductible, which is the amount you must pay for your insurance to cover the rest of the damages.
The damages you’ll pay the injured driver will most likely come from your car insurance. If you haven’t reached your policy limits yet, you can use the remaining balance for your medical expenses. You can also turn to your medical insurance plan to treat your injuries. Your policy determines what will be covered, but most injured patients have to pay the following:
- Deductible amount for your health insurance
- Any co-payments required under your health insurance policy
- Any charges that aren’t covered by your policy
Note that payment responsibilities for car accidents will be charged against your auto insurance first. The damages for the other driver and your medical bills should be paid up to your policy limits before you can tap into your health insurance coverage.
If you’re uninsured, you’re going to have to pay the damages and other expenses out-of-pocket. This is the reason you need auto insurance.
As you can see, car accidents are extreme headaches. So much work, investigations, and negotiations are involved in proving fault and pursuing damages. Your best bet is to seek legal counsel to make sure your defense is strong and solid.
Choose a reputable, experienced personal injury attorney who will aggressively represent you and ensure that you receive fair compensation.
Trusted Personal Injury Lawyer in New Jersey
With 50 years of combined legal experience, Keith Zaid Law works tirelessly to protect your rights. We have represented cars and truck accident victims since 1981, making sure our clients receive the settlement they deserve.
Our car accident lawyers strive to discover all liable parties and aggressively pursue fair outcomes for our clients. We’ll negotiate with your insurance provider on your behalf, so you won’t have to do it yourself. With our years of experience and expertise in New Jersey’s laws, you can trust Keith Zaid Law to build a strong case for you, ensuring a favorable result in your claim.
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