All Georgia car accident cases focus on determining fault. Georgia is one of the “fault states,” so it requires all drivers to carry insurance. A driver’s insurance policy will pay for accidents he or she caused. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to start determining fault with car accident damage.
In some situations, the fault of one of the two drivers is obvious, while in other situations fault is uncertain. Furthermore, many insurance companies do everything in their power to put the blame on the other driver, in order to avoid paying a lot of money. An experienced car accident lawyer can help prove you were not at fault.
In spite of all these, there are simple rules that help to determine the fault:
- If only one of the drivers broke a traffic law, he or she is most probably at fault.
- If nobody broke any law but one of the drivers was to blame for negligence such as texting or fiddling with buttons on their dashboard, this individual is probably at fault.
- If one of the vehicles wasn’t properly maintained and that led to the accident (defective brakes is one of the first examples that come to mind), the driver of this car is probably at fault.
- In case of rear-end accidents, the driver in the back is usually at fault, because they weren’t keeping enough distance. The only exception is the erratic behavior of the driver in front such as changing lanes unexpectedly or multi-car collisions that the driver in back had no chance to control
In real-life, many accidents occur in circumstances that aren’t clear. For instance, what happens if one driver was speeding but the second one wasn’t focused on the road? What if both of them broke a traffic law? In such situations, judgment is required to determine fault in a car accident.
Determining Fault with Car Accident Damage: “At-Fault” and “No-Fault”
At-fault and no-fault are terms that often aren’t clearly understood. Georgia is an “At-Fault” state meaning that in every crash there is a driver who caused the crash. It’s not always fair and there are many cases when both drivers seem genuinely without fault. But in Georgia, the insurance companies, a mediator, or a jury will determine that someone is at fault.
No-fault, a practice in very few states means that there are crashes where no one was responsible. Issues such as road conditions and weather often play a part in no-fault findings. Even in no-fault states, it is rare for a no-fault determination. So don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything living in an at-fault state.
In addition to operating as an at-fault state, Georgia employs a 50% bar rule. The 50% bar rule states that the driver who is 50% or more at-fault, is essentially responsible for the whole crash. While insurance companies may internally reach settlement agreements where the lesser at-fault driver’s insurance carrier pays some compensation it’s not required.
The driver with less than 50% fault cannot be pursued for compensation. Meaning that you cannot go after their insurance coverage or them personally.
Duty of Care or Negligence
Duty of care is the basis of nearly all fault decisions. Essentially anyone with a driver’s license, from any state, gives a promise to all other people on the road to act safely and in accordance with traffic laws. Everyone is told about this, in writing, when they receive their license.
Many drivers forget about this duty of care. The speed when they’re in a hurry, and blow through stop signs when they think it’s safe. Failing to provide a duty of care almost always involves breaking a traffic law. In cases where it doesn’t directly break the law, there is still the evidence of neglect.
Neglect can include everything from texting or drinking to failing to yield. By acting in any neglectful manner a driver is at risk of being the person determined as at-fault.
Negligence comes up in a variety of situations and you might find it comes down to often forgotten aspects of driving such as using a turn signal. A common example of negligence playing a role in determining at-fault is a driver signaling to switch lanes while another driver is in the process of changing lanes also. The person who failed to signal or signaled their intent to move too late is often deemed as negligent.
A touchy subject, but many have now learned the hard way to not apologize after a crash. Not only is it unreasonable as you don’t have anything to be sorry for, but it’s an admission of guilt.
Even if you apologize as an act of concern rather than apologizing for action, the other driver can use it as a sign of guilt. An opposing insurance company or legal team may argue that by apologizing you may have seen possible evasive action and did not take it. Don’t apologize.
How Do Insurance Companies Go About Determining Fault with Car Accident Damage?
In the United States, every driver is compelled to have insurance. In addition, many drivers go a step further to purchase comprehensive and collision coverage. For example, 78% of insured drivers purchase comprehensive coverage in addition to liability insurance, and 74% percent buy collision coverage. This ensures that most drivers have financial protection in the case of a crash.
Finding out who is at fault in a car accident in Atlanta, Georgia, is important. This is because the at-fault party’s insurance provider will be responsible for the damages to the injured party’s property and medical injuries. Therefore, after a crash, the insurance company begins its investigation.
First, they will take all available statements and evidence from the scene. Then, they will examine the damage caused to the vehicle and any injuries sustained. With this information, they can piece together the series of events leading to the accident. Then they can determine who is at fault.
Sometimes, each of the drivers shares fault in an accident. For example, each driver might have done something to cause the crash. In such cases, the insurance companies may agree to a shared fault determination.
This way, the drivers would share the responsibility for the damages and injuries that occur in that accident. However, if the insurance companies reach a shared-fault conclusion and you are not comfortable with it, you should contact a lawyer. Atlanta car accident lawyer will examine the facts of the case and advise you on whether or not to dispute the conclusion.
How Can You Help Determine Fault?
You have a part to play to ensure that the insurance companies reach the right conclusion on who the at-fault party is. The following ways are the things you can do to help determine fault in a car accident in Atlanta, Georgia:
At the scene of the accident, you should take as many photos as can support your case. Pictures of the damage to the vehicles, street lights, traffic lights, the people at the scene, and the area the accident occurred will help you.
Record Eyewitness Accounts
Unless the car crash takes place in the dead of the night, you should find eyewitnesses around the scene of the car crash. Even if it happened at an odd hour, you might probably find people who witnessed the crash. You should collect their contact details and record their accounts at the scene. This can come in quite handy when the insurance companies are determining fault.
Make a Police Report
The single most important piece of evidence in a car accident is a police report. This can help corroborate your account of what happened at the scene. In addition, the police report is usually seen as more credible. As such, the insurance companies will very likely believe their account of events. Therefore, you must ensure that you call the police from the accident scene to make a police report.
Seek Medical Care
If you sustain an injury resulting from a car accident, you must seek medical care immediately. While the steps outlined above are important, your health and safety are also paramount. Moreover, the records of your medical visits along with your medical bills are also proof that can help make your case.
How Do You Prove Negligence?
Most car accidents are indeed based on negligence. This just means that one of the drivers weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. As a result, there was a car crash. An Atlanta auto accident attorney has to prove negligence all the time. In order to prove negligence, you need to prove four (4) things:
- The defendant had a duty of care toward you – This one is easy. All drivers have a duty of care toward other drivers. You have to obey all traffic laws. You also have to be aware of your surroundings and other cars on the road.
- They breached that duty – If you break a traffic law or behave recklessly, you’ve breached your duty of care. Your lawyer will work to prove that the other driver did this.
- You were hurt – You have to actually suffering injuries in your car wreck. Otherwise, you won’t be able to recover damages. It’s not enough that you were in an accident. You have to actually suffer an injury.
- Your injuries were caused by his breach – Your injuries must be caused by the accident. If the defendant’s lawyer can prove that you already had a bad back, it may be hard to be compensated for medical bills related to a back injury.
If you can prove these four things, you should be able to recover for your injuries. Of course, the defendant’s lawyer will be trying to prove the opposite. He’ll argue that you breached your duty of care and you’re the reason you crashed.
Can Fault Belong To Both Drivers?
Yes. In the State of Georgia (and not only) drivers can share fault. This situation is called a comparative fault. It is a set of measures meant to determine how to share fault when both drivers were negligent to some extent.
Some time ago, if you showed even slight negligence, you wouldn’t be able to claim any money for your accident. Even if you were 10% at fault, you got no money. According to Georgia’s current comparative negligence rule, if you were 10% at fault you’d be able to recover most of your expenses, although not as much as if you weren’t at fault at all.
Here are the two basic rules you need to know about:
- You can recover costs in proportion to the percentage the other driver was at fault. For instance, if the other driver was 80% at fault, you can recover 80% of your damages.
- If you were at least 50% at fault, you won’t be able to recover any money.
These rules lead to a situation where insurance companies have a strong motivation to cast as much fault on you as possible. Claiming that you were even a little at fault helps them save money. In addition, if they can claim a 50/50 fault situation, they may not have to pay you anything at all. Insurance companies are extremely good at demonstrating your fault, so don’t try to confront them without hiring an experienced car accident lawyer to help you.
Are Drunk Driving Accidents Automatically At-Fault Accidents?
One of the reasons DUI crashes are so serious is because of the recklessness of the drunk driver’s behavior. When people are drunk or under the influence of drugs, they tend to make poor decisions. They may drive way too fast. Or they may even drive down the road the wrong way. Drunk drivers are more than just negligent. They are downright reckless and inconsiderate.
The other reason these crashes are so dangerous is that it doesn’t matter how carefully you drive. You can obey every traffic law and stop at every stop sign. This means nothing if someone is driving while under the influence. You have no way of knowing this sort of thing is going to happen. Even if you could predict it, that doesn’t change the fact that the impact is likely going to be pretty severe. That’s why it’s so critical that you go to the hospital immediately after your accident no matter what.
Even if you don’t think you’re hurt, you could have internal injuries. If you suffer a traumatic brain injury, for example, it can prove fatal if left untreated. Plus, your car accident lawyer in Atlanta is going to need to have medical records to prove the extent of your injuries.
If the Defendant is convicted of DUI, Will Help Your Case?
One would logically think that, if someone is convicted of DUI, they’d automatically be held liable for any injuries sustained in their DUI crash. However, this isn’t always the case. The fact that the defendant was drunk may have contributed to the accident. This doesn’t mean it caused the accident.
For example, consider a drunk driver that is stopped at a stop sign. You are driving a bit too fast and end up smashing into the back of their car. Here, we have a situation where the driver’s being drunk may have nothing to do with the cause of the crash.
The defendant’s lawyer and the insurance company are going to work hard to prove that their client is not at fault. The good news is that your car accident lawyer in Atlanta is going to work even harder to demonstrate that the defendant is legally responsible. Submitting proof that they were convicted of DUI will only strengthen your claim. However, it is not a guarantee that you’ll win your case.
Atlanta Car Wreck Attorneys Will Use Whatever Evidence is Available
When it comes to a lawsuit, attorneys will use whatever evidence they can. Obviously, they aren’t going to introduce evidence that hurts their client. Their goal is to prove that their client is a victim. Some of the evidence most Atlanta car wreck attorneys rely on include:
- Witness statements
- Police report
- Statements made by the drivers and passengers
- Cell phone records if texting and driving was involved
- Video evidence
- Prior driving histories
- Any citations or arrests made at the time of the accident
All of these things are great when it comes to proving fault in a car accident. They can usually show who is responsible for the accident. However, what does an attorney do when this information is unavailable? Or, if it is available, what if it isn’t beneficial to their client?
Some evidence is either unavailable or unreliable.
The reasons for this include:
- The prejudice of witnesses – Whether it’s right or not, some witnesses are going to lie if the defendant is their friend or family. They’ll swear up and down that their buddy was not at fault. It is very hard to prove that a witness is lying. All a lawyer can do is chip away at the witness’s credibility.
- No recollection of events – Some witnesses simply don’t remember what happened at the time of the accident. They could’ve been injured and suffer from memory loss. Or, they may have not been paying attention at the time of the accident.
- There are no witnesses available – Some accidents take place on a deserted road late at night. Others take place on backroads where you wouldn’t expect other drivers to be. There may just be no witnesses to the accident.
When there is no evidence to directly prove who was at fault, lawyers have to be creative.
Georgia Car Accident Attorneys Can Hire Experts
When all else fails. Georgia car accident attorneys can hire people who know how to prove fault in car accidents. There are accident recreation specialists who can help. There are also engineers who are experts at determining fault with car accident damage.
These experts can use both pictures of the scene and the damage caused to the vehicles to determine fault. There is a huge body of research that shows the likely causes of accidents based on car damage.
For example, if Car A has a lot of damage to the passenger’s side of the vehicle, it’s pretty easy to show that someone hit the car from the side. If this is the case, it’s going to be Car B who is presumed to have caused the accident.
If, on the other hand, Car A has a lot of front-end damage and Car B has a ton of rear damage, the case is obvious. Car A will be held to have caused the accident. Unless he can show that there was some other reason why he hit a car from behind, he’ll be at fault.
Contact an Atlanta Car Accident Attorney
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you’re going to want to call an Atlanta car accident attorney. You don’t want to handle something like this yourself. This is even truer if there’s no clear-cut proof of who is at fault.
The odds are, the other driver is going to have an attorney. His attorney is also going to work hard to prove that you were at fault. You don’t want to end up on the wrong end of a personal injury lawsuit. Contact and set up your initial consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys today.