Car accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. By the time you realize your vehicle has been hit, you might not have the presence of mind to realize what actions led to the collision. This is not an uncommon reaction, as the hormone adrenaline (sometimes referred to as the fight-or-flight hormone) will flood your body as your brain prioritizes survival over all else. Thinking about who caused the accident might not even occur to you until later.
As difficult as determining fault may be, it is an essential step for recovering compensation. Financial compensation is key if you have serious injuries, need to take time off work, or need to have your car repaired. This may leave you wondering, “How do I know if the other driver was at fault for my accident?” The car accident lawyers of DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC can help answer that question.
Drivers Can Determine Who Was at Fault
You should never admit fault or make any comments that allude to being at fault for the crash. Car accidents are much more complex than most people realize, and there are many different factors that must be taken into account before assigning fault. Never give a recorded statement to insurance adjusters (even those who work for your own insurer) without your attorney present. What you might think of as an innocuous statement can be picked apart by the insurance company.
However, there are some situations in which drivers may be able to clearly assign fault. If the other driver admits that they ran a stop sign and maintains that story as time moves forward, you should be able to reasonably determine that the other driver was at fault.
Similarly, you might pay careful attention to any statements of admission the other driver might make immediately following the crash:
- I’m sorry
- I didn’t see you there
- I was only looking at my phone for a second
- I didn’t realize what the speed limit on this road was
If the other driver admits that they were doing something negligent or wrong at the time of the accident, you may be able to interpret this as an admission of fault. It is always possible for the other driver to go back on their previous claims, but an experienced Charleston car accident attorney can help you hold them accountable.
Police Can Determine Who Was at Fault
West Virginia §17C-4-6 requires you to immediately report a crash if:
- Someone was injured
- Someone was killed
- At least $1,000 in property damage occurred
Information contained within the police report will be available to you pursuant to §17C-4-7. If you did not get the other driver’s name or insurance information at the scene of the accident, the investigating officer is required to provide it to you upon request.
Most importantly, the police report may contain information about who was at fault. You can use a police report that clearly assigns fault to aid in your claim for compensation. Not all police accident reports assign fault, although you may still be able to find that it contains valuable crash-related details, including:
- Driving conditions at the time of the accident, including inclement weather
- The location of the accident
- Driver’s license information, including whether the other driver had a valid license
- Statements from all involved drivers and any witnesses
- A diagram of the accident
Before you write off your accident report as not being helpful for determining fault, have your car accident attorney take a look at it. Some reports require an expert eye to glean any valuable information.
The Insurance Company Can Decide Who Was at Fault
More often than not, insurance companies have the final say in determining fault. After an accident, all involved drivers should notify their own insurance companies of the crash. You will file a claim with your own insurance company, and then it will be up to them and the other driver’s insurance company to determine fault.
You should provide your insurer with as much information about the accident as possible, including:
- Pictures of the accident scene
- Pictures of vehicle damage
- Pictures of your injuries
- The police report
- Written or recorded witness statements
- Evidence of medical bills
- Documentation that shows time taken off work
Just like your insurance company has a vested interest in proving that the other driver was at fault, the other insurance company may try to claim that you caused the accident. Insurance companies operate on a for-profit business model, meaning that paying out claims does not make economic sense for their bottom lines. Unfortunately, you might end up in the crosshairs between two insurance companies that are unable or unwilling to decide on fault.
These types of issues can be dragged out for weeks or even months, leaving you without the help you need to focus on your recovery. In some cases, an insurer might even be trying to run out the clock for the statute of limitations on personal injury claims. In West Virginia, you have only two years from the day of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Where To Turn When You Need Help Determining Fault
It does not take long to realize that you are not necessarily a priority to the insurance company. Throughout the entire process, from the day of the crash to filing a police report and filing an insurance claim, you will rarely encounter a time when you feel like your problems take precedence.
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we make sure that each and every one of our clients knows how important they are to us. Our lawyers work tirelessly to make sure that car accident victims know how much we care and that we mean business when it comes to securing compensation on their behalf.
This is not a journey you have to take on your own. While you focus on your physical recovery and emotional well-being, our Charleston car accident attorneys will go to work for you, establishing that the other driver was at fault and dealing with the insurance company on your behalf. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation.