Regardless of what transpires during a car accident, most people can agree that no one wants to be part of the reason it has happened. Even fewer people want to think about the steps they should take when they are at fault. However, it’s prudent to prepare for this situation.
A significant question many people ask in response to being at fault for an accident is whether there is a path toward financial compensation for the costs and losses they’ve experienced in the process. Consequently, here’s some valuable advice for how to best proceed after you’ve caused a car accident
Don’t Leave the Scene
Resist the temptation to avoid the consequences. Ostensibly, performing a “hit and run” will likely result in serious criminal charges. You can’t change what just occurred, but you can make wise decisions that lead to proper management of the situation. It’s imperative that you follow the law and stay put.
Your First Move
Politely check on the other driver(s) and exchange information. Also, be sure to call the authorities, especially if there’s evidence of injury or property damage.
How to Speak to the Other Driver(s)
It might seem unkind, but you should avoid saying too much.
You may feel the urge to apologize, to defend yourself, or to engage in a lengthy discussion. Alternatively, it’s also possible you’d prefer to avoid having a confrontation with someone. In either situation, do your best to alleviate the circumstances by monitoring your voice and your mannerisms.
However, also monitor your words. Remember that it’s not in your best interest to open up about:
- How or why you are at fault
- What precipitated the accident
- Your assessment of their responsibility for the accident
As counter-intuitive as it may feel, keeping to yourself after checking on the other person’s safety is your best move. Call the authorities, calmly exchange insurance and contact information, and then wait.
How to Speak to the Police
The authorities will have some questions for you. In providing a statement, try to maintain a bird’s-eye view of the accident. You can relate that the two cars collided without admitting blame.
Additional Steps to Consider
It may be possible to broaden your view of the scene:
- Collect names and information from potential witnesses who may be willing to share their insight
- Check for street or nearby security cameras
- Using your phone, record all evidence of the site—capture images of vehicle damage, debris, and environmental factors such as road conditions or dangerous intersections
Gathering your own record of the scene will prepare you for what’s to come.
Check Your Health
Then, contact your insurance company. Tell them only what they need to know—that you were in a car accident and were hurt—before beginning the process of your insurance claim.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Near You
Yes, even the person who thinks—or knows—they caused the accident, even if only partially, should contact an attorney. An experienced car accident lawyer will offer insights into the situation and provide consultation about your options moving forward.
Importantly, an experienced lawyer will guide you through the following question: Is it possible the other driver is also at fault?
Assessing whether there’s a case to be made for shared responsibility —in your particular state—is crucial in determining optimism for fiscal recovery.
Proportionate Liability: Why Your State’s Approach to Fault Matters
The percentage that the insurance company and jury determine to be your responsibility has a proportional impact on your financial recovery. There are several state laws pertaining to fault in car accidents:
- Pure Contributory Negligence: if you are even 1% at fault, you cannot receive any financial compensation. This means that if both parties are even 1% responsible for the accident, neither will walk away with any financial recovery.
- Pure Comparative Fault: in this scenario, you are entitled to file a claim to pursue financial compensation even if you were 99% at fault.
- Modified Comparative Fault: For example, Texas follows the modified comparative fault model. A driver can pursue compensation even if determined to be partially at fault, but only if they are less at fault than the other driver(s).
The percentage of the accident for which you are deemed responsible can and will have a significant impact on whether you will walk away with financial compensation for losses you’ve suffered.
Florida follows a pure comparative fault standard. So, sharing blame – even most of it – won’t stand between you and some compensation.
Managing Insurance after the Accident
There are various approaches that different states take toward insurance and car accidents.
If you’re filing in a fault-based state, you may be able to recover some of your losses. However, because the company you’re filing with will also be covering the costs for the other driver(s), being even partially at fault will be leveraged against you. This will appreciably lower the settlement you are offered.
No Fault States
In a state with “no-fault” auto insurance coverage, every driver makes a claim with their own car insurance regardless of fault. Your insurance company will cover the medical bills and the professional income you miss out on due to the accident, independent of your fault in the accident.
Personal Injury Protection Insurance (PIP)
If you are at fault, PIP, a form of no-fault coverage, can help. This type of insurance is not dependent upon your innocence. Use PIP to seek coverage for financial losses just as you would in a no-fault setup. In Florida, PIP insurance is required by law.
If you don’t have PIP, you can use other kinds of supplemental insurance to forge a path toward some financial compensation. For example:
- Emergency policies (such as Aflac)
- MedPay (which helps with copays and other “out-of-pocket” medical costs)
These supplemental forms of insurance can offer some peace of mind when trying to cover the costs of car damage and medical treatment.
Altogether, most roadway standards of correct behavior, like staying focused and yielding the right of way, are widely accepted. Others, like using GPS responsibly, are still being navigated. Even when safe driving is on everyone’s mind, accidents happen, and there’s almost always someone to blame.
Experiencing a car accident is often emotionally and physically stressful, as well as confusing. Follow these steps in the pursuit of financial and physical recovery, even if some of them feel counter-intuitive. It’s not only important to protect yourself while driving; it’s also important to protect yourself afterwards.