When you're in a car accident, it can be scary and confusing. Who was at fault? Who pays for what? This FindLaw article breaks it all down.
Who's at Fault?
After a car accident, the main legal question is, "Who was at fault?"
The at-fault driver is the person who caused the accident. Sometimes, the police report can help figure this out, as it talks about what happened at the accident scene. If a driver didn't follow traffic laws, they might be at fault.
Insurance and Accidents
Every driver should have car insurance. The insurance company of the at-fault driver usually pays for the damage. But this depends on state law and the insurance policy.
There are two main types of insurance coverage:
In some places, like Michigan and Minnesota, drivers have no-fault insurance. If you're in an auto accident there, your insurance pays for your medical bills and vehicle damage, no matter who caused the crash.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is part of this, covering medical expenses. Think of it as a safety net. If you have a car accident, PIP helps cover medical bills, even if it was your fault.
PIP doesn't just cover doctor visits. It can help with other costs, too, like if you can't work for a while or need help around the house.
And PIP isn't just for drivers. If a family member or passenger is in the car with you, PIP can cover their injuries, too.
Fault-Based State Insurance
In other places, the at-fault driver's insurance pays. So if another motorist hits you, their auto insurance policy covers your damages.
Sometimes, the at-fault driver's insurance doesn't cover all the costs, especially if the accident was really bad. This is where things can get tricky. You should talk to a car accident lawyer to help get the money you need in these situations. They can negotiate with the insurance company for you.
What Does Insurance Cover?
Insurance can pay for a lot. This includes medical bills, car repairs, and even money for pain if you or a loved one gets hurt.
The injured person can sometimes file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. But there's a catch: insurance has policy limits, so they will only pay a set amount.
In these cases, you might have to rely on your insurance or a special type of insurance called "underinsured motorist coverage" to help cover or offset the rest. If the other driver's insurance can't pay for everything, this coverage helps pay the rest. It's like a safety net. It ensures you don't have to pay for something that wasn't your fault.
If all else fails, you may have to go to court to ensure you get the money you're owed.
When Things Get Tricky
Insurance can be complicated. For instance, if both drivers are partly to blame, the rule of comparative negligence might apply. This means both drivers share the fault, and the insurance payout gets divided. Instead of one person's insurance paying for everything, both insurances might pay a part based on how much each driver was at fault.
But be careful! You might get nothing if you're more than 50% at fault in some places. This is called contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is a strict rule, meaning you must be really careful on the road. Even a small mistake could cost you if it's more than half the reason for the accident. So, always drive safely and be aware of the rules!
Your Car and Insurance
After a car crash, you might also deal with property damage. This means fixing or replacing your car.
Collision coverage in your insurance might help with this. But remember, you'll need to pay a deductible first. That's the amount you pay before insurance steps in. You pay the deductible first, and the insurance covers the bigger expenses.
Always check your insurance plan to see how much your deductible is so you're prepared and know what to expect.
Every car accident is different, and so are the rules in each state. Always share your insurance information and get that of the other driver if you're in an accident. If you're unsure about anything, it's smart to seek a personal injury lawyer or an auto accident attorney. They can guide you.
Car accident lawyers can help you understand the rules and get the money you deserve. They can talk to the insurance adjuster, handle your injury claim, and give legal advice. Whether for property damage or a wrongful death case, if a family member sadly passes away, a car accident attorney can help.
Every auto accident and insurance policy is unique. Always consult a car accident attorney for specifics about your accident case or accident claim.
Remember, the most important thing after any automobile accident is the safety and health of all the people involved. Drive safely and always follow traffic laws!