Car accidents happen in the blink of an eye. They leave chaos in their wakes, and they happen alarmingly often. In fact, from the beginning of 2021 to mid-2022, the Lima Police Department recorded reports of 1,610 car crashes in Allen County.
So, who is liable in a car accident? The answer to that question depends on many factors.
An attorney can help you find out who should be held responsible when you are a crash victim. At Bensinger Law, our Ohio car accident attorneys can help you determine who was at fault for a car crash, and we can help you recover maximum damages in court or at the settlement table.
How to Determine Liability in a Car Accident
When determining liability in a car accident, the first question to ask is, Who acted unreasonably leading up to the accident? The second question to ask is, Did the unreasonable actions cause you harm?
If someone acted unreasonably in a car crash and was the direct cause of harm to you, they are generally liable to pay for your damages.
However, you cannot recover any money from other parties in a crash if you were more than 50% responsible for the accident. If you were 50% responsible or less, you can recover a percentage of your damages. This is called comparative negligence.
Who Determines Liability in a Car Accident?
Generally, two entities determine liability in Ohio car accidents: insurance companies and courts. In many cases, the other driver’s insurance company makes its liability determination first.
If the other driver’s insurance company doesn’t believe their driver is liable, or if they don’t offer you a just settlement, you can take your case to court. Because the insurance company is usually the first entity to make a decision about liability, let’s discuss how they determine who is at fault in a car accident.
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How Do Insurance Companies Determine Fault?
Once you make a claim on another driver’s insurance company, that company has their adjuster reach out to you for more information.
The adjuster will likely request:
- Police reports from the accident,
- Medical records,
- Receipts for out-of-pocket expenses,
- Car repair or replacement estimates,
- Contact information for witnesses, and
- A personal statement.
Each of these pieces of information can give you and the other side a good idea of who was responsible for the accident. This information also gives the insurance adjuster a good idea of their likelihood of winning in a trial and how much money they might have to pay if they lose.
Police Reports Are Important
Immediately reporting your accident to the police is crucial because police reports contain some of the most reliable accounts of what happened. A police report often diagrams how the accident occurred.
If the report cites the other driver for a traffic violation or criminal activity, you have a greater chance of proving the other driver’s fault. You can also gather important witness information from a police report.
Be Careful with Personal Statements
An insurance adjuster will likely ask you for a personal statement about what happened during the accident. Sometimes a personal statement can make or break your case.
It’s important to speak to an experienced car accident attorney immediately so they can prepare you for how to handle personal statements to the insurance company.
Questions an Insurance Company Might Ask
Some questions an insurance company might ask to decide if their driver is liable include:
- Was either driver drinking or using prior? If the other driver was impaired, they’re likely more at fault.
- In what condition was each car prior to crashing? Depending on the nature of the accident, a poorly maintained car could place the blame on its driver.
- Who suffered more damage? A victim suffering more damage might be perceived as less culpable.
- Did anyone violate traffic laws? Those who violate traffic laws (for example, speeding, reckless driving, running traffic lights, etc.) might be more at fault for an accident.
- What was the weather and the condition of the road? Surrounding conditions help insurance companies gauge how reasonable each driver was in light of the circumstances.
While an insurance company’s answers to these questions can help you prepare your case, you can’t always trust the insurance company’s assessments.
Hire a skilled attorney to make their own assessments about the strength and value of your case. Insurance companies often downplay the facts in your case to protect their bottom line, while your attorney focuses on how to present your case in the most favorable light.
What If I Suffered Injuries in a Car Accident That Wasn’t My Fault?
If you were involved in an automobile accident and went to the hospital for injuries, you should keep a journal or log to document what happened.
Human memory tends to fade over time, and by the time it gets to the point where information about your injuries is needed, it may be years since the time of the accident. This is why it is important to keep a journal or notebook documenting each and every day from the time of the accident until you are healthy again.
A journal is helpful because it can help you remember how you were feeling that day, if you were in pain, or couldn’t sleep as a result of the accident.
What Should I Document in This Journal?
There is not a comprehensive, exclusive list. The best way to look at a personal injury journal/notebook is like a diary. You want to write details down that relate to your accident.
For example, if you were in a car collision, the next few weeks you keep waking up with neck stiffness or back pain, you would want to write that down. The reason is 3/4 months down the road or even years, you might not remember that you couldn’t sleep on x day because of pain that resulted from the accident.
A journal serves more as a memory booster because you can reference back to the days after the accident while you were treating. It also helps because the other side cannot discredit some of your injuries because you have it documented.
Speak to an Attorney Today
Aaron Bensinger is an experienced attorney who gives top-quality, personalized representation to victims of car accidents in northwest Ohio. Bensinger Law knows that the best result in a personal injury case is the result that specifically suits you, so we tailor our advocacy to your unique needs.