Before factoring in anything else, car accidents are stressful situations in and of themselves. A traffic collision can result in severe injuries, expensive property damage, and unfortunately, even loss of life.
But if that wasn’t enough, there’s another source of stress to come: dealing with an insurance company that doesn’t seem to be especially interested in providing you with fair financial compensation. The sad fact is that many insurance companies tend to have greater concern for profit than fulfilling their responsibility to insured customers.
One tactic these insurers often use to avoid paying out car accident injury claims is to argue that the injured driver was actually to blame. When you need to dispute car accident fault to receive rightful compensation, you should strongly consider hiring a car accident lawyer who has experience and offers a free consultation.
Put simply, determining fault in a car accident is a matter of assigning responsibility for the crash. In order to be at fault, a responsible driver must have acted negligently, which means all of the following must be true:
This determination is then used by the insurance company to establish value in a car accident case. Knowing which driver caused a car wreck plays a key role in deciding who is responsible for paying for damages.
While this might seem rather straightforward, there are factors that can make fault in a car accident difficult to determine.
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For example, sometimes more than one person acted negligently and contributed to the accident. Let’s say one driver rolled a stop sign, then was T-boned by a car traveling 30 miles per hour over the speed limit. Both drivers might be assessed some portion of the fault, but it may not be 50/50. A court could determine, for example, that the speeder was 90 percent responsible but the person who rolled the stop sign was 10 percent responsible.
When the person seeking damages is also partially to blame for the accident, their damage award can be reduced by the percentage of fault. Furthermore, whether they can make a claim at all depends on where the crash took place.
Kentucky uses a pure comparative negligence system. That means, in the above example, the driver who was 10% to blame can recover 90% of their claimed damages from the other driver’s insurance company, while the driver who was 90% to blame can only recover 10%. Indiana, on the other hand, uses a modified negligence system with a 51% benchmark. In this case, the 10% at fault driver can still only recover 90%, while the 90% responsible driver (or any driver sharing more than 50% of the fault) cannot recover anything.
Naturally, this situation means that, if an insurance company can find a way to even partially blame the accident on you, they save themselves money—and leave you with less than you need and deserve.
Another example: Sometimes car accidents happen along an empty stretch of road, with no witnesses aside from the drivers involved. If the at-fault driver doesn’t admit responsibility, fault may need to be established from forensic evidence. Unfortunately, we often see dishonest drivers and trucking companies try to pin the blame on innocent crash victims in order to protect themselves.
Karl Truman Law Office fights for the legal rights of injury victims and their families in the greater Louisville, KY and Jeffersonville, IN communities. This is worth noting for our clients who are involved in accidents in Kentucky, because it is a “choice” no-fault auto insurance state.
Some people find the “no-fault” part to be confusing, but the simple way of looking at this is that no-fault laws dictate that auto insurance companies pay their own policyholders benefits known as personal injury protection (PIP). Also known as no-fault care insurance, PIP protects at-fault drivers from certain legal claims (unless certain thresholds are met) and mandates that policyholders receive payment for medical expenses, lost wages, and related financial damages from their own insurance company—regardless of who was responsible for the collision.
If you opted for no-fault insurance, then you would first file a claim with your own insurance company to pay your PIP benefits.
However, realistically speaking, unless your damages are extremely minor you would still likely need to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance to receive full, fair compensation. The threshold to be able to file a liability claim is just $1,000, and a basic PIP plan only provides $10,000 in coverage (unless you opted to purchase more). Which means that, even though Kentucky is technically a “no fault state,” fault still matters a great deal for the vast majority of automobile accidents, particularly if you suffer an injury.
So, what if an insurance company is saying that you’re at fault for the car accident? Is there anything you can do about it?
One way or another, you absolutely can dispute fault. Ultimately, this might entail working with insurance companies or utilizing a legal process, perhaps as part of a civil lawsuit (if it escalates to that point).
Details you gather immediately after the crash can make a huge difference for your accident case. This can involve collecting evidence and documenting information so you don’t forget key details after time passes.
If your injuries are not severe, get names and contact information for any witnesses you can. Take photos of skid marks, debris, and all other relevant aspects of the accident scene. Try to contact or talk to an on-site police officer to have them review the accident scene and write an official report.
In the even you sustained any injuries—even ones that seem minor to you—make sure you seek professional medical treatment as soon as possible. Delaying this could give your car insurance company a reason to be suspicious, and you don’t want that when trying to prove you weren’t at fault.
It’s highly likely that your insurance carrier has an online contact form you can use to initiate communication about the accident. Once you do, though, the ball can start rolling quickly. While it’s important to notify your insurer promptly, you should also contact an auto accident attorney as soon as possible as well. They can advise you about the best approach and protect you from dirty tactics from the claims adjuster.
If the car accident was caused by the other driver and you file a liability claim, the other driver’s insurance company may do everything they can to make you settle, without even checking all evidence connected with the car accident. They might even reach out to you with a lowball settlement offer.
Insurers do this because they believe non-lawyers don’t understand the severity of injuries and how much the subsequent medical treatment expenses are going to cost. They also know that you’re likely under a lot of emotional stress and financial pressure. So, some of them try swooping in and offering a settlement that could sound like a decent amount of money, yet still be far from an appropriate amount.
Remember, you should never accept a settlement that doesn’t provide you with fair compensation for your injuries. Once you settle, you can’t go back and renegotiate.
While it may not always be advisable to fight tickets in court, this could be an important move if you are seeking to disprove fault for a car accident. And it is especially true if an officer made a mistake that makes it look as though you are the at-fault party.
In this case, you should consider hiring legal counsel before initiating your battle in court. Your attorney may then want to try reaching out to the investigating officer prior to the court date. Ultimately, there is a chance your ticket or citation will be dismissed if you agree to completing a course with the Kentucky State Traffic School or Indiana’s Citation Points and Driver Safety Program (depending on where you happen to reside, or where the accident occurred).
You can potentially make an appeal if you disagree with the fault determination, and a third-party mediator will hear your side of things. As with the entire legal process, you can benefit from having an experienced attorney in your corner during mediation.
Blaming someone for a car accident that wasn’t their fault is a common tactic that insurance companies use to get out of paying fair settlements. Even if fault seems obvious to you, the insurance company might not see it the same way. Accordingly, you may need to step up if you want to successfully dispute fault from the accident.
While dealing with an insurance company can be unpleasant, it’s important that you receive the compensation you deserve, even if that ultimately requires legal action.
Before taking the matter up in a civil lawsuit, you should start with normal processes related to making the insurer aware of the situation. Look up the insurance company’s fault dispute policies if you can find them; either way, make sure you notify the insurer by phone and in writing that you disagree with their decision.
Building your case against fault for the accident comes down to demonstrating that you were not responsible. To help with this, you should try to prove fault for the other party. And depending on what your insurance company finds, you may need to have a solid rebuttal in place. The more evidence you can provide to back up your perspective, the better.
Matters like these are ones that an experienced car accident lawyer can really help you with. If you have legal assistance in disputing fault, your attorney can review the police report, collect evidence, contact witnesses, file a personal injury lawsuit, and take so much more off your plate. That allows you to focus on the healing process and overcoming any injuries you sustained in the accident.
It’s never too soon to bring a car accident lawyer on board, particularly if you’re considering disputing a fault finding. Going unrepresented is a risky strategy because insurance adjusters have a reputation for trying to take advantage of non-lawyers.
More than that, having the right legal team on your side can help ensure your case is robust and presented in a professional manner. A personal injury lawyer who has experience going up against insurance companies is likely to be treated with greater respect than what might otherwise be given.
In a similar manner, you want to make sure you have an experienced car accident lawyer on your side when it comes time to file a personal injury lawsuit against the insurance company as you seek to collect rightfully owed compensation for injuries, damages, and other sources of financial restitution.
Your car accident attorney may need to conduct further investigation to ensure you receive fair financial compensation for your medical bills from any bodily injuries you sustained in the car crash. They can also review the accident report, witness statements, and other important evidence, along with relieving you of the burden of dealing with your insurance carrier throughout the entire process.
RELATED POST: When to Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident
Motor vehicle collisions can be painful, complicated situations. Everything that goes along with them just adds to the stress and pain, and that includes having to dispute fault because an insurance company doesn’t want to pay your injury claim.
You can certainly attempt to handle all of this on your own. It will take a lot of resources (time, energy, money), but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
That said, it is certainly challenging to deal with insurance companies, put together a case with the right evidence, and navigate the whole process. This journey is just easier when you have a professional legal team who has done it all numerous times before—and that’s where Karl Truman Law Office comes in.
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If you live in the greater Louisville, KY or Jeffersonville, IN communities and are seeking a personal injury lawyer to help you get fair compensation following an auto accident, you might want to take advantage of our free initial consultation.
We would be happy to talk with you, hear your story, and answer any questions you might have for us. In doing so, you can see if we are the right legal practice to represent you in your fight against the insurance companies. And if you decide to hire our firm, you will have an experienced legal team that is ready to fight for you. Contact us online or give us a call at 502-222-2222 for your free consultation.