In the aftermath of some car accidents, it's fairly clear that one of the drivers was responsible for what occurred; for example, if one driver was behaving responsibly but the other was in flagrant violation of a traffic law or criminal statute (e.g. DUI), there will be less of a dispute over how to assign fault.
However, other car accidents aren't as clear-cut, and both drivers may share in the responsibility of the crash. Whenever the issue of fault is murkier, there's more likely to be a dispute between the drivers; even when it's clear that the fault is shared to some extent, a dispute can arise over what percentage of the fault should be assigned to each driver.
Don't admit fault
Even if you know or suspect that you share some of the fault in an accident, don't admit this to the other driver or to the police. Youneed to be able to step back first and consider what really happened; in the immediate aftermath of an accident, you may not be in the right frame of mind to do this.
After the accident, you should exchange information with the other driver, but not comment on what happened or accept a quick settlement that may not be in your favor. You should, on your own, document the details of what happened, including anything about the surrounding circumstances (such as inclement weather or the other driver's behavior). You should also keep meticulous records of your communications with insurance companies and anyone else involved in the crash, along with your medical bills and car repair bills.
Reviewing your case with an accident lawyer is an important step to take to better assess what happened and improve your chances of an outcome favorable to you, especially if you're struggling with medical bills and repair costs for your damaged vehicle.
Lawsuit damages are determined by your share in the fault
When it comes to civil litigation over an accident, your state's law will determine how much money you could possibly be awarded given the amount of fault you've been assigned. Colorado, for example, follows a "modified comparative fault" rule. If you're found to be less than 50% at fault for the accident, you can still be awarded damages; the amount of damages you receive decreases the more your share in the fault increases. But if you're found to be at least 50% at fault, you can receive no damages whatsoever.
In contrast, in a place like DC, if you share any of the fault - even a small percentage - you can't receive damages in a personal injurysuit. This is much tougher than a comparative fault rule.
Don't hesitate to contact us to discuss your case. Your lawyer is an invaluable resource for legal advice and advocacy, not only in dealing with insurance companies but also during a civil suit, if the situation warrants one.
Attorney Dianne Sawaya is licensed to practice law in Colorado and the District of Columbia. Dianne Sawaya has practiced law for nearly 30 years, and has devoted more than half of those years to achieving personal injury settlements for accident victims. She practices law in Colorado District Courts, U.S. District Courts in Colorado and Washington, D.C., and U.S. Courts of Appeals in Colorado and Washington, D.C.