Varying Degrees of Fault in a Car Accident

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"Who's at fault in my car accident?" That may be one of the many questions floating around in a car accident victim's head. But a bad car accident can leave a driver with a long and stressful to-do list:

  • Physically recover in health
  • Get reimbursed for car repairs
  • Get reimbursed for any other damages

But if a police officer or the highway patrol issues you a ticket in the accident, you may be worried that it means you're at fault and that you won't be able to recover as much damages as you want. That process is more complex than that, though. It begins with the insurance company.

The Insurance Adjuster

When you're in a serious car accident and you file a claim with your insurance company, the insurance adjuster will be the first to determine what will happen with your benefits. Insurance adjusters will generally only look at the police report filed. So if the police officer issued you the ticket, then the insurance adjuster will most likely determine that you are the one at fault and leave it at that.

Tickets may remain on your record for several years, unless you attend traffic school, or in some cases, you pay a certain amount for expungement. But according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, tickets could remain on  your record anywhere from 3 to 7 years. This is not a good situation to find yourself in, considering the record could continually increase the premium on your auto insurance.

But if you're issued a ticket in the accident it doesn't necessarily mean that you're at fault. There could be more factors contributing to the accident. What if, for example, you rear ended another driver but only because they quickly maneuvered into your lane and slammed on the brakes? You could potentially prove, through comparative negligence, that you are not wholly responsible for the accident.

How an Attorney Might Determine Fault

A car accident lawyer may be able to perform more in-depth research on your claim, even if you were issued a ticket. An accident attorney won't simply stop where the police officer issued the violation, like an insurance adjuster might, but they may understand the difference between contributory negligence and comparative negligence (or comparative fault), which is found in § 768.81 (3), Fla. Stat. The statute says, "In cases to which this section applies, the court shall enter judgment against each party liable on the basis of such party's percentage of fault."

Contributory negligence means that when one party is at fault to any degree then they are considered entirely negligent. Comparative negligence means that there are sometimes varying degrees of fault in a car accident claim. An auto accident attorney may be able to work alongside with you, by using photos taken from the scene of the accident, by interviewing and gathering quotes from witnesses, and by getting detailed statements from those involved in the accident.

Initially a ticket may spell "f-a-u-l-t" for you in the beginning of your car accident claim, but it doesn't necessarily mean that later down the road. You can still prove the negligence of the other driver, at least to some degree. A car accident lawyer may be the advantage you need in pursuing your claim as efficiently as possible.