In many car accident cases, a central question is who is ultimately liable for the accident. Even if a person is at fault, his or her level of liability may be reduced or eliminated based on the laws of his or her state.
Under the traditional insurance regime, the insurance company that insured the liable party pays for the vehicle damages and medical expenses that the victim incurred. If the liable insured party has comprehensive coverage for collisions, his or her insurance company will also provide for his or her vehicle repairs.
However, 12 states have no-fault insurance laws that work in a different manner. In these states, it is not necessary to prove fault to get medical bills covered. Each respective driver’s insurance policy covers his or her own medical expenses. The advantage of this system is that medical claims are paid more quickly and the injured victim does not have to wait to recover for medical expenses by filing a lawsuit.
Under most no-fault insurance policies, coverage also provides for lost income if the injury prevents the injured victim from returning to work. However, no-fault policies only apply to bodily injury claims and not property damage claims. Individuals cover damage to the other person’s vehicle under liability coverage. They can also opt to purchase collision coverage for their own vehicle.
In states that recognize contributory negligence, the plaintiff can be completely barred from recovering damages or having his or her damages reduced in reflection of his or her role in the resulting injury.
States may recognize one of two comparative negligence theories. Under pure comparative negligence, the percentage of the injury that was caused by the plaintiff reduces the total award. Under modified comparative negligence, the plaintiff must not be the primary cause of the accident in order to recover damages.
If an officer came to the scene of the accident, he or she probably made a written report. Inquire with the traffic division of the law enforcement agency that responded to the accident how you can obtain a copy.
While some police or accident reports may not provide detailed information beyond that he or she responded to the accident, others may be more thorough. The officer may include an opinion about who was at fault or if one of the parties appeared to have violated a certain traffic law. It may also include the basis for this opinion. For example, an officer may observe skid marks at the scene of the accident and opine the speed that the driver was traveling immediately before the accident.
Sometimes, officers may issue citations after an accident and this information can raise a presumption of fault. This information can be very important to an insurance company.
If a report contains inaccurate information, the party involved can request to amend the report. However, this is usually much more difficult to accomplish if the party is wishing to amend a disputed fact. However, some jurisdictions may allow the party to add his or her statement to the report, which can help show consistency with later statements made by the party.
If an objective party witnessed the accident, he or she may be willing to provide a statement. This may help to establish liability to the insurance company. He or she may also be subpoenaed to provide testimony at trial.
In some cases, an expert witness may be called to provide an opinion regarding liability. He or she may examine objective evidence, such as photographs, vehicle damage, skid marks and electronic data to form an opinion about who caused the accident. These witnesses may sometimes be referred to as accident reconstruction experts.
In some cases, there is a presumption that a party is at fault because he or she violated a traffic rule. To establish negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant did not act with the appropriate standard of care. The standard of care is typically interpreted as how a reasonably prudent person would act in the same situation. Such a person is usually described as being someone of average intelligence who obeys the law.
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