After an accident, the insurance companies will determine who is at fault based on witness statements, vehicle damage, police reports and other evidence. Sometimes, they decide that more than one driver is at fault. If a lawsuit is filed, a judge or jury will look at this same type of evidence, but may reach a different conclusion than the insurance company did.
Fault in a Georgia car accident is usually based on the legal concept of negligence. A negligent driver isn’t as careful as a reasonable driver in a similar situation. This might mean the driver was speeding or violating other traffic laws, wasn’t maintaining a safe following distance, was distracted or was driving under the influence.
Why does it matter who is at fault?
There are two approaches to car insurance and fault in the United States. Some states have “no fault” or “personal injury protection” insurance, which means that no matter who is at fault in an accident, your own insurance policy will pay for your injuries. Georgia, however, has a fault-based system. If a driver is at fault, that driver’s insurance company must pay for all the injuries and vehicle damage that occur because of the accident.
How do insurance companies decide who is at fault?
The determination of fault starts with the police officer who responds to the accident. At the scene, the officer will talk to drivers and other witnesses and examine the damage to the vehicles. The officer will prepare a report that may include the officer’s opinion about who was at fault. The officer may also issue traffic citations.
When an insurance company receives an accident report, it assigns an adjuster to the claim. The adjuster will look at the police report, but will also conduct a separate investigation. This may include getting statements from the parties involved, reviewing witness accounts and vehicle damage, and looking at the types of injuries that occurred. The adjuster will then decide whether one of the drivers was negligent. Often, this process happens at both drivers’ insurance companies.
How is fault decided in a lawsuit?
In most car accident cases, an insurance company makes a settlement payment after determining that its driver was at fault. But some cases aren’t so easily resolved, and a lawsuit is filed. If the lawsuit goes to trial, the judge or jury will listen to evidence and decide which driver was negligent. This evidence might include such things as the police report, evidence that a citation was issued, witness testimony, evidence of vehicle damage, and the opinions of accident reconstructionists and other experts. The judge or jury may or may not reach the same conclusions about liability as the insurance adjusters.
What if more than one driver was at fault?
Sometimes, more than one driver was negligent. When this happens, Georgia uses a “comparative fault” system to determine which driver must pay, and how much.
Under Georgia’s system, each driver is assigned a percentage of fault – for example, one driver might be 70 percent at fault, while the other is 30 percent at fault. If you are 50 percent or more at fault, you cannot recover any money. If you are less than 50 percent at fault, you can recover money from the other driver. However, the amount of money you receive will be reduced by the percentage of your fault.
How can I protect myself if I was not at fault?
Insurance companies look for ways to find another driver at fault, because that means they won’t have to pay out as much money. This means you must be careful of what you say around the insurance company, and never take the blame for an accident you didn’t cause. The best way to make sure you aren’t unfairly held at fault for an accident is to get a car accident lawyer on your side. A simple consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in Atlanta can help you understand whether you were at fault and how to handle the insurance company.
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