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I Was At Fault in a Car Accident, Now What Should I Do?

at fault accident


If you were at fault for a car accident, you might be unsure what exactly you should do now?

Below we’ll walk you through the details so if the need arises you will know what's going on and how to protect yourself.

We’ll cover….

What is an at-fault accident?
What steps should you take after the accident?
How will the accident affect your insurance premiums?

Let’s get started…

What is an At Fault Accident?

Figuring out fault in an accident is as simple as determining the extent to which each driver is responsible. This process is done based on the laws of the state where the accident occurred.

Each state's rules vary, but generally, they can be divided into two main categories of how they deal with fault in automobile accidents. Most states are “fault” states, but a few are considered “no-fault”.

-Fault states - The majority of states are fault states. This means they have a tort liability system when it comes to auto insurance. In a fault state the driver who caused an accident, or his insurance company, is responsible for all damages relating to the accident.


-No-fault states - In no-fault states, drivers do not have to think about proving someone else caused an accident and typically will have their own insurance company cover damages.

There are 12 current no-fault states, these are [1]:

  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah

To summarize, an at-fault accident is one where you shoulder the responsibility for an accident; and in terms of insurance, the downstream effect of one depends on the state you’re in.

(Read more about Accident Claims in No Fault States)

What Steps Should You Take After an At Fault Accident?

If you’ve been in an accident that was primarily your fault, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind at the scene of the accident. Most critically, you want to make sure your car is not blocking traffic and that no one is injured. After that, keep things diplomatic:

-Don’t admit fault or even hint at it.


-Don’t rehash or discuss what caused the accident.


-Don’t be apologetic, this goes against the grain of most people’s conscience but it can be used against you as an admission of fault later.


-Don’t be confrontational, be as calm as you can, make sure people are okay and exchange insurance information. There is no need to compound a bad situation with anger.

Some other things you’ll want to do are:

  • Call the police (especially if there appears to be more than $500 worth of damage or any injury)

  • Take some photos, and

  • Get the names of any witnesses.

Do your best to document things, be honest, polite and calm -- and you’ll be amazed how much more smoothly things can go.

(Read Critical Things You Should do at Car Accident Scene)

How Will an At Fault Accident Affect Your Car Insurance Premiums?

One of the first thoughts most people have after getting into an accident is how much is this going to cost me? It’s hard to say exactly what will happen to your premiums after an at-fault accident.

Most insurance companies, when asked, give some vague sounding answer to this question. The reason for this is because it varies a lot based on the company, the person, and the circumstance.

That said, according to Insure.com [2]

many insurance companies follow the Insurance Services Office's (ISO) standard of increasing a premium by 20 to 40 percent of the insurer's base rate (which is the average rate charged plus the insurance company's claims-processing fee).

This increase (sometimes referred to as a “surcharge”) can vary wildly. Some companies will give you a free pass if you’ve got a good record and this is your first accident.

Some will charge a 10% increase for the first offense. If you have multiple at-fault accidents you can assume that your rates will go up substantially (sometimes as high as 50%).

Premium increases are based on complicated actuarial science and company policy -- so for these reasons (and the ones mentioned above), a more precise answer is simply not possible.

Summary

Car accidents are a significant problem in the United states. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015 the number of auto accidents was approximately 5.25 million ! [3].

If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of being at fault for an accident remember these basic things:

  • Most states have a fault or tort liability system whereby insurance companies pay according to the extent their insured’s fault

  • Keep your cool after the accident, don’t discuss fault or the details too much but do collect information and be polite.

  • Know that your premiums will likely go up after an at-fault accident, but it may not be as bad as you fear.

If you disagree with your insurance company about some aspect of the claim or are confused you can always seek the free consultation with an attorney as well.



Sources

1 - Insurance Information Institute

2 - Insure.com

3- National Highway Traffic Safety


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