In the U.S., an estimated 6 million car accidents occur yearly, in which 3 million people get injured. Over 70% of crashes also cause property damage.
With all those effects, it’s no wonder auto accidents cost the U.S. hundreds of billions yearly. In 2021 alone, they cost the nation $340 billion. That includes the cost of treatment and property repairs.
That said, if you’ve recently been in a crash, you’re likely wondering if you can recover any damage. But can you get compensation if the accident was your fault in the first place?
We’ve answered that question in this comprehensive guide, so please read on.
Can You Get Compensation if the Accident Was Your Fault?
This depends on your state’s negligence rules and car accident laws.
If you live in a state with no-fault insurance or comparative negligence laws, you can. But if you’re in a state implementing contributory negligence laws, no, you can’t.
What Does No-Fault Insurance Mean?
No-fault insurance is also known as personal injury protection (PIP) in many states. It covers a policyholder’s injuries regardless of who caused the incident. It helps pay for the medical bills or lost wages incurred by the insured following a car accident.
In several states, PIP is mandatory, meaning all drivers must carry it. These include Florida, Michigan, New York, and Utah, to name a few. In other places, such as Texas, Virginia, and Washington, it’s an optional add-on.
So, PIP policyholders in these states can get compensation even if the car crash was their fault. They only need to file a first-party insurance claim with their insurer.
PIP doesn’t cover car accident property damage. It’s either collision coverage or property damage liability insurance that does.
What About Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence is a law that assigns fault to all parties involved. In this case, one side could be 25% at fault, while the other’s share is 75%. Depending on the specific type of law, both parties may seek compensation.
The two primary types of comparative negligence law are pure and modified.
Pure Comparative Negligence
Pure comparative negligence allows any partially at-fault party to recover damages. As long as they’re not 100% to blame for the incident, they can seek compensation. However, their percentage of fault will decrease their recovery by the same amount.
Suppose you were in a crash, of which 70% was your fault. You also sustained $15,000 in medical and car accident damage costs.
Because you were 70% at fault, your compensation amount will be 70% less than your losses. You can recover only 30% of $15,000, or $4,500.
Arizona, California, and Washington are examples of states implementing this law.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Like the pure version, modified comparative negligence also reduces recovery based on fault. However, it has a specific fault threshold, which, in most instances, is 50%. In this case, a party can seek compensation, provided they’re not to blame for 51% or more of the incident.
For example, you were in a collision incident that was only 50% your fault. You’re sure the other driver shares as much blame as you do. If you could prove this, you could pursue compensation, although it would only be 50% of your losses.
Conversely, the other driver may claim that your fault share was 70%. If they can prove this, you may no longer be able to seek compensation since you went over the 50% threshold.
Hawaii, Indiana, and Iowa are examples of states with modified comparative negligence laws.
What Does Contributory Negligence Mean?
This is the harshest of all negligence laws, as it bars anyone at fault from seeking compensation. So even if a driver was only 1% to blame, they still won’t recover anything.
Considering how strict this law is, only a few states still implement it. Examples include Alabama, Maryland, and Virginia.
What Do You Need to Get Compensation?
Even in states with no-fault laws, proving fault could be necessary in some cases. An example is if one party in a crash experiences car damage due to another driver. The one who suffers a loss must establish the fault of the other to get compensation.
As for states with at-fault laws, all claims and lawsuits require proving fault. For example, you must prove you are only partly to blame and that the other driver was also negligent. You can also dispute a finding regarding your negligence, but you need proof for this, too.
Here’s what you can do to establish another’s negligence or counter a finding you were at fault.
Report the Accident to the Police
One of the most crucial steps after a car accident is to call the police immediately. Do this regardless of who you think was at fault. The police can provide an expert assessment for an at-fault car accident.
Besides, it may be the law in your state to report motor vehicle collisions.
For example, in Arizona, motorists must report incidents resulting in injury or death. Likewise, they must inform the police about crashes that cause property damage of over $1,000. In these instances, the involved must also wait for the police at the scene.
The attending officers will then create and file a report about the crash.
Obtain a copy of that report. It may contain an officer’s opinion pointing to the other driver’s negligence. For example, it may say that the other motorist was driving while distracted.
Distracted driving is a traffic offense, and rightly so, as it impacts thousands of people in the U.S. yearly. In 2019 alone, distracted drivers caused crashes that killed over 3,100 people. These incidents also injured 424,000 individuals.
Organize Photographic Records of the Accident
Hopefully, you took photos and videos of your recent accident. If so, create at least two digital backups of these files.
They should show the damages your vehicle sustained and the position of the other cars. Images or videos showing road signs, skid marks, and traffic conditions can also help.
Keep Medical Records Safe
You should also have photos and videos of your injuries. Ensure you collect and keep your hospital and medical records safe, too. You need all these to seek car accident compensation, even if you were at fault.
Call Your Insurer
Policyholders must often inform insurers of incidents that may lead to a claim.
So, if you were in a crash that caused an injury or property damage, you must call your insurance provider. Please do this even if you were at fault or the other party claimed you were to blame.
Remember: You could still get compensation either way. You only need to prove you deserve and it’s your right to recover something.
File Your Claim
Gather all your supporting evidence and begin the insurance claim filing process. Most insurers allow their policyholders to do this online. They have web platforms with forms you can complete and tools that let you upload documents.
If you’re filing a claim against the other driver you think is also to blame, your insurer can still help. They can guide you through the process of filing a third-party insurance claim. Again, you’d need to provide the other insurance company with your supporting documents.
Should You Hire a Car Accident Attorney?
In an ideal world, insurance companies pay fair settlement amounts promptly. Unfortunately, such is not the case in the real world. Many reject claims, others make low-ball offers, and some delay starting the process.
You may face such difficulties, especially if the other party claims you’re to blame for the crash. In this case, you may already need an auto accident lawyer.
A car accident attorney can help with the following:
Dispute a Finding About Your Negligence
A car accident attorney can gather more information about your incident. They can obtain videos from traffic and surveillance cameras. They’ll watch these to find anything to help disprove claims about your fault.
An auto accident lawyer can also reach out to witnesses. These may include other motorists, pedestrians, or cyclists who saw the crash. Workers or customers in shops near the accident site may also be witnesses.
Testimonies can help establish you weren’t at fault for what the other party claims you were. They may even aid your lawyer in proving the other driver’s fault.
Negotiate With Insurers
An auto accident lawyer can help determine how much compensation you deserve. They’ll then communicate with insurers on your behalf. They can help you avoid agreeing to a too-low settlement amount.
Take Your Case to Court
Most car accident claims get settled out of court.
However, your case could be one of the few that must go to trial. This can happen if the parties involved can’t agree on shared fault. In this scenario, your lawyer may recommend taking your case to court.
If you agree to file a lawsuit, your attorney will represent you. This allows you to have more time to heal and recover.
Get the Compensation You Deserve
Now you know the answer to the question, “Can you get compensation if the accident was your fault,” is yes, you can. However, this depends on your percentage of fault and your state’s negligence laws. You must also prove you’re not entirely to blame or dispute claims against you.
Fortunately, our expert attorneys here at Sweet Law can help. Contact us today, and we’ll gladly provide a free case consultation!