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Who Is at Fault After an Auto Accident?

Car accidents happen so quickly that it can be difficult to remember exactly what happened right before impact. The focus quickly becomes making sure everybody is physically alright. This is the very first consideration that should be addressed after every accident — Is everybody okay?

It is only after everyone’s medical needs have been addressed that the situation can start to be figured out. And once the dust settles, one major concern is going to be who is at fault for the accident?

This question can have a lot of major ramifications so it’s important to understand what it means. Only after fault is assigned in an accident will you know how you should proceed. Will you need an auto accident lawyer? What will happen with your insurance?

These possibilities will depend on who is determined to be at fault.

Fault-Based States and No-Fault States

The location of the accident has a lot to do with how the following processes will be conducted. This will dictate whose insurance is liable to pay for the damages incurred by all parties involved in the auto accident. Each state has their own laws regarding insurance practices and payouts. And the main distinction that directly relates to auto accidents is whether the state is a fault-based state (otherwise known as a tort state), or a no-fault state.

Tort States

These states assign blame based on an investigation performed by the insurance companies. The insurance company representing the driver who is determined to be at fault will be responsible for covering the damages incurred in the accident. These determinations are occasionally questioned which can lead to the necessity of an auto accident lawyer. Tennessee is a tort state.

No-Fault States

These states don’t require blame to be assigned in the accident. Instead, each driver will turn to their own insurer for coverage of damages. Kentucky is a no-fault state, although they offer the ability to choose between tort or no-fault coverage.

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Legal Liability

Tort states require a designation of who is legally liable for the expenses that come as a result of an auto accident. This is assigned based on the idea of “negligence.” Again, this differs between states but there are a few overarching versions of negligence.

Comparative Negligence

Responsibility for the accident is split between the parties involved. This allows an individual to seek partial damages from the other’s insurance company. An example of this could be if one driver rolls through a stop sign and is hit by a speeding driver coming the other way. The speeder could be deemed 75% at fault and the other driver 25% at fault. This would allow the other driver to seek 75% of the damages from the speeder’s insurance company. Kentucky employs comparative negligence.

Modified Comparative Negligence

This is another version of the above form of negligence. This version sets minimum standards for when a driver is able to sue for damages. Tennessee employs the 50 Percent Bar Rule, which states any party that is deemed to be 50% or more at fault for an accident can not seek damages.

Pure Contributory Negligence

Pure contributory negligence states that a driver must be completely blameless in order to receive compensation. An example would be an unoccupied car parked legally on the side of the road being struck by a passing vehicle. Even if a driver is deemed to be 10% at fault they won’t receive payments for damages or injuries from the other party’s insurance company.

How Are These Percentages Configured?

Insurance companies will assign an adjuster to determine fault in an accident. Statements from both parties could be gathered, but these are usually unreliable. Each party doesn’t want to admit fault. They also might not have the best memory of what exactly happened.

This is why the police report is very important to assigning blame. It is a third-party account of the events and is usually more reliable than interviews with the involved drivers.

Any photos taken at the scene can be used to support your claim. It’s always a good idea to document anything you can after an accident, especially if you don’t believe it to be your fault. You should also refrain from admitting fault at the scene. There are often factors you might not be aware of that will affect the driver ultimately deemed at fault for the accident.

Call an Auto Accident Lawyer

The first thing you should do after visiting a doctor is to call the professionals at Bart Durham Injury Law after an accident in either Tennessee or Kentucky. Dealing with insurance companies can be as frustrating as it is confusing. You want to be sure you have access to the funds you are entitled to receive and we can make sure that happens. We’ve been representing clients in Tennessee and Kentucky for decades. Call today for a free consultation!

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