Let’s talk auto insurance accidents this month and who is at fault. That is a question that always comes up and has a very simple answer. No one is at fault. At least according to the parties involved. That does happen, but usually one party is more at fault than the other party.
There are some cases that are generally clear cut. I will not say definitively, always at fault, since any accident can have extenuating circumstances. If you rear end another party, you are almost always at fault. Same would hold for backing out of a parking space and hitting another vehicle and being hit while making a left hand turn at an intersection in front of an oncoming vehicle. Certainly, running a red light and broadsiding another vehicle would be an at fault accident as well as speeding, losing control of your vehicle and striking another vehicle.
How does your insurance company determine fault if there are conflicting stories from the people involved in the accident? First, you report the accident to your insurance company. If there is a question of fault, they will take recorded statements from the drivers and witnesses, if any, involved in the occurrence.
They will order a police report, if there is one, to see what has been recorded by the officer at the scene after the accident. But the officer can only record what he has been told. The officer can make a determination to hand out a citation and list contributing factors of the drivers to the accident, but the officer does not determine fault. The officer did not see the accident.
If it is a serious accident involving significant bodily injury or death, the insurance company and/or the local law enforcement might do an accident reconstruction at the scene to help determine what the cause of loss was.
Law enforcement would be looking to see if any criminal charges need to be considered in the case of a death, and the insurance company would be looking to help determine fault.
The insurance company takes all the facts it has assembled and determines if their customer is at fault and to what degree. They then make an offer to the other party to settle the claim if their customer is determined to be negligent, or denies the claim if in their opinion, their customer is not at fault.
The state of Georgia is a modified comparative fault state, which limits recovery if you are over 50 percent at fault. But the explanation of that rule is too extensive for the word limitation of this column.
If you disagree with the determination of fault, you always have the option to hire an attorney to represent you. They typically get paid out of your settlement amount.
Dave Pushman is the former regional vice president of Geico in Macon and is now an independent insurance agent with Tidwell and Hilburn Insurance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.