FAQ: How is Fault Determined in an Auto Accident?
When it comes to automobile accidents, Georgia is a “tort” state, or fault state, meaning the person(s) at fault must pay for the damage caused. But how, exactly, is fault determined in an auto accident? Who decides who is at fault, and to what extent?
Comparative fault and negligenceIn many auto accident and other personal injury cases, fault is not attributed solely to one party; rather, the insurance companies determine comparative fault based on to what extent either party acted negligently. If the injured party, the plaintiff, was found to be negligent to his/her own safety in some way (a term known as contributory negligence), the fault may be attributed proportionately between the parties. For example, the insurance company and/or courts may determine that the injured party was 30 percent at fault in the accident, and the defendant was 70 percent at fault. In this case, the settlement amount would be reduced by 30 percent to account for the plaintiff’s contributory negligence.
What goes into determining fault?Insurance companies take several factors into account when determining who is at fault in an accident, and to which percentages. These include:
- Police reports
- Testimony of eyewitnesses
- Testimony of the parties to the accident
- Physical and visual evidence you gather (e.g., cell phone pictures)
Should you admit fault in an accident?No matter whether you believe you contributed to the accident in any way, any admission of fault on your part can be used against you, either to reduce the amount of your settlement or even disqualify you completely. Here’s why you should never admit fault at the scene of the accident, or even to the insurance companies afterward:
- Your words may be immediately used to disqualify you from compensation you should rightfully have.
- Other factors may be in play that you aren’t aware of that contributed to the accident. (In other words, it might not actually be your fault, even if you made a mistake.)
- The evidence will determine who is at fault without your help.