How insurance companies determine fault after a car accident

Proving fault in an accident stems back to identifying the negligent party to determine who pays for damages. In Ohio, the at-fault driver's insurance company pays for the victim's expenses resulting from the accident.

Even a relatively minor accident can lead to significant expenses. Economic expenses include medical bills, lost wages and vehicle repair or replacement, which are easy to prove with invoices and pay records. Accident victims may also collect non-economic damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress.

The role of the claims adjuster

Insurance companies assign a claim adjust to investigate the accident. The adjustor gathers evidence and reviews the factual circumstances to make a fault determination. Evidence used to reach a conclusion includes police reports, witness statements and photographic evidence of the scene. Adjustors also review the damage to each vehicle which can reveal the vehicle's movement at the time of the accident. Adjustors will also look for any citations for traffic violations relating to the accident.

Factoring in comparative negligence

Ohio is a comparative negligence state which means both parties share in a portion of the accident cost relative to their share of negligence. When determining negligence, the actions of a reasonable and prudent person in the same situation serve as a baseline. Accident victims determined to be more than 50 percent negligent may not recover losses from the other driver. However, if the insurance company found a driver's actions 20 percent negligent, the driver could collect damages minus the 20 percent for comparative negligence.

Working against you

Insurance is a business, and like any other business the insurance company wants to limit losses while increasing profits. Denying claims and offering lowball settlements while collecting premiums is how an insurance company turns a profit. A simple "I'm sorry" at the scene of the accident may be seen as an admission of guilt. Even if you think you might be partly at fault for an accident, it's best to let the insurance company reach that conclusion objectively.

Determining the at-fault party is crucial to assigning liability for the accident costs. Recovering from an accident involves immediate practicalities such as seeking medical treatment and repairing or replacing a mode of transportation. Fighting an insurance company for just compensation only adds to that stress. Seek the aid of a personal injury attorney to work on your behalf.

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