Your Fault, Their Fault – Determining Liability in a Personal Injury Case
“Liability,” in the context of a personal injury claim, means whether the other party or the other party’s insurance company is going to accept responsibility for the incident that caused the injury.
In car crashes in particular, it is increasingly common for insurance companies to deny liability, or deny complete liability, when deciding whether they will accept or reject someone’s personal injury claim.
If an insurance company denies “liability” for your personal injury claim, this generally means they will not pay you anything. Or they will reduce what they pay based on how “at fault” they believe their driver is for the accident. Determining who is liable or “at fault” for a car accident is one of the most important first questions in evaluating the likelihood of success for your personal injury claim.
The first document attorneys look at in a car accident personal injury case is the police report, if available. The police report provides of useful details about the accident. The people (or “factors”) that contributed to the accident, the extent of the property damage, whether injuries were reported at the scene, the weather conditions, the road conditions, and other helpful information are all included. It also indicates whether the police issued tickets, whether there were witnesses, and the insurance information for the drivers involved. If the police report lists the other driver (and not you) as being responsible for the accident, it is much more likely the other driver’s insurance company is going to accept responsibility for your personal injury claim.
What If I Don’t Have a Police Report?
Sometimes, police do not come to the accident scene or when at the accident scene do not prepare a report. In these situations, it is critical to get as much information as possible at the accident scene. Gather the other party’s name, address, telephone number, and insurance information. Take pictures of the vehicles and the accident scene. Gather the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the car accident.
Did Anyone Admit Fault?
It is important to remember whether or not the other driver admitted fault at the scene of the accident, as an admission of fault by the other party can help strengthen your claim. If the other party’s insurance company contacts you because they are admitting fault, share that information with the insurance representative.
An admission of fault by the other side is helpful, but it does not guarantee that party’s insurance company will pay for your personal injury claim. The police or the driver’s insurance company looks at the facts of the accident and reach a different conclusion.
With disagreements about who caused the accident, witnesses to the accident are critical in determining who is truly at fault. This is why it is always important to get contact information for any witnesses at the accident scene. This is even if the police are there conducting their own investigation.
When Liability Is Denied
If the other driver denies responsibility for your car accident, or if the insurance company denies your personal injury claim, it is important to speak with a personal injury attorney right away about your options. The personal injury attorneys at Harris Cook, LLP have extensive experience in evaluating and fighting liability denials in car accidents. We can help you decide what to do next with your personal injury claim.