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How to Determine Fault After a Car Accident
If you’ve been in an accident, you may be staring down a stack of hospital bills, wondering how you’re ever going to pay for them.
Depending on who was at fault for the crash, the other driver’s insurance company may be responsible for paying these and other costs. Unfortunately, liability is not always cut and dry, and determining who was at fault for an accident can be complicated.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car or truck accident, it’s in your best interest to speak with a personal injury attorney. They can help determine who is legally liable for the accident, and whether you are owed compensation for medical bills, car repairs, lost income, and other damages.
But this is just one of several important steps you should take to safeguard a potential insurance claim and strengthen a potential personal injury lawsuit.
What to Do After a Car Accident That Is Not Your Fault
If a car accident wasn’t your fault, or if you’re not sure whose fault it was, there are things you can do to prevent the other driver’s insurance company from denying or underpaying your claim:
1. Document everything. Take photos of the scene of the accident, the vehicles involved, the road, any relevant traffic signs, and any visible injuries you may have. Write down the date, time, weather, and all other details pertaining to the crash while they are still fresh in your mind. Note the responding police officers’ names and division and request a copy of the police report. You may need all this evidence later in order to obtain compensation.
2. Get contact information from the other driver and witnesses to the accident. For the other driver, this information should include their name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate, insurance company, and policy number. For witnesses, you probably just need their names, phone numbers, and email addresses. These third parties may be able to verify your account of the accident, which is crucial to any claim.
3. Go to the doctor. Even if you feel okay, you should undergo a medical evaluation soon after the accident (ideally within 72 hours). Many injuries, especially neck and back injuries, take time to manifest themselves. If you file an insurance claim or lawsuit seeking damages for medical bills, the other driver’s insurance company may try to argue that you’re not seriously hurt (“They didn’t even go see a doctor after the crash”). Do not give them that chance. If you wind up needing ongoing medical treatment, attend all doctor’s appointments and follow all medical advice. Disregarding these treatment plans could endanger your claim.
4. Contact your insurance company. Notify your insurance company that you were in an accident within 72 hours of its occurrence. Many insurance policies require drivers to notify them of an accident “within a reasonable time.” If it turns out you were at fault for the crash, and you waited to contact your insurance company, they may try to make you pay for the damages. If you weren’t at fault, this is just more evidence to support your claim that the accident was significant.
5. Hold on to all medical bills, repair bills, receipts, and exchanges. If you file an insurance claim or lawsuit, you need proof of the damages you are seeking. Keep all relevant bills and receipts in the same place so you can easily find and provide them later. You should also maintain a record of all exchanges with both your insurance company and the other driver’s.
6. Do not accept an offer from the insurance company before speaking with an attorney. It is common for insurance companies to quickly offer the injured party a small fraction of what they would be owed if they filed a personal injury lawsuit. Don’t sign anything or accept an offer without speaking to a car accident attorney. By doing so, you could potentially cost yourself tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What to Do After a Car Accident That Is Your Fault
Often, it’s not totally or immediately clear who was at fault for a car accident, so it’s wise to follow all of the steps outlined in the section above. Even if the police determined that you were at fault for a crash, they may have been mistaken, or it could turn out that you were only partially responsible. There is nothing to lose, and potentially much to gain, from erring on the side of caution in these situations.
You may later learn that you were only 50 percent at fault for the crash, in which case you could be able to recover compensation through an insurance claim or lawsuit. After contacting your insurance company and receiving medical attention, your next call should be to a personal injury attorney who can help you figure out who is liable for the accident.
For over 45 years, Jim Adler & Associates has been hammering insurance companies who try to take advantage of Texans injured in car and truck accidents. We have helped thousands of people recover compensation for medical bills, auto repairs, lost wages, and other damages. Best of all, we do not charge upfront or by the hour: we get paid only if we win for you, and that money comes out of a favorable settlement or jury verdict, not your pocket.