Accident Liability Issues: What Happens if You’re Partly at Fault?

Most people like to think that they’re safe drivers, but statistics show that the average driver will end up filing an auto accident claim every 19 years. Obviously, these claims aren’t always the fault of the driver, and even the safest people on the road can be injured due to another individual’s negligence. Unfortunately, being injured due to a person’s neglectfulness doesn’t necessarily mean that one will receive compensation for their pain and suffering, property damage or even medical bills. 

Differences in Liability Standards

It surprises many to find out there’s no single, agreed upon definition of “liability.” Some states practice what are known as contributory negligence laws, and others have comparative negligence laws. States with contributory negligence laws, such as North Carolina, bar a person from receiving compensation if they were at all at fault for their accident. Even if they were only one percent negligent and the other driver was 99 percent negligent, they’re still barred form recovering.
In comparative negligence states, such as South Carolina, the amount of negligence each party exhibited is still considered, but a small amount of negligence from the claimant will not stop them from receiving compensation. The judge or jury usually decides what percentage each party was at fault for an accident, and then rewards compensation based on that number.
Charlotte personal injury attorneys caution anyone involved in an accident in North Carolina to be very deliberate with the first action they take immediately after a collision.  Due to the contributory negligence laws there, whom you talk to and what you say could drastically affect your liability responsibility and in turn, your claim.

Why Liability Matters When Speaking With Insurers

As mentioned above, whether or not a person receives compensation, and exactly how much they recover, is often based strictly on their amount of negligence in an accident. If a person negligently steps into a crosswalk when the “Do Not Walk” sign is flashing, for instance, and is hit by a negligent driver who ran a red light, that person will not receive anything in a contributory negligence state. Additionally, in a comparative negligence state, they’ll only receive a percentage of what they would’ve gotten had they not been neglectful.

If, when speaking with an insurance company, a person admits fault in any way, shape or form, they’ve likely given the insurer the ammunition that they need to deny a claim. Sadly, insurers are skilled at asking leading questions and flat out influencing condemning answers in an effort to save money. This is why most people recommend never speaking with an insurance company before meeting with an attorney.

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How to Handle Car Accident Liability

Handling liability begins at the scene of an accident. It’s important not to apologize or admit any amount of guilt to the other driver. One should be courteous, but there’s no reason to be insanely forthcoming. It’s also important, when police officers arrive, to be careful in choosing one’s words. A person should not admit guilt, even if its slight, when speaking with the officer. Even the smallest admission of negligence will be put into the police report and thus available to the public.

Additionally, it’s imperative to seek out a personal injury attorney after an accident. This is good advice regardless of where a person lives, and doing so before speaking with an insurance company is really the biggest rule of any personal injury claim. An attorney will know local laws of negligence, and this will help them knowledgeably build a case for a person’s deserved compensation.

Car accidents are already, both literally and figuratively, a pain in the neck. Sadly, insurance companies, especially those in contributory negligence states, will jump on the smallest chance to avoid paying a person the compensation that they deserve. This is why it’s so vital for a person to have legal representation every step of the way after being involved in an accident. While one slip of the tongue or misspoken word can ruin a person’s chances of recovery, a skilled attorney can easily help prevent this.

Monica Mason, the proud owner of a 10 year old Toyota Camry, carries full coverage collision insurance and recommends knowing what your policy says before you’re involved in a collision. Charlotte personal injury attorneys Auger and Auger Attorneys At Law represent clients involved in auto collisions, and assist them in the insurance claims process, from filing claims to helping them understand their policy language and the claims process.

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