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How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident Case?

Blue car with damage to the front bumper and a flipped over red car.

While no one wants to consider the possibility of being in an accident, the risk of collision is present every time you slide behind the wheel. Whether you make a mistake or are the victim of another person’s carelessness, you’ll want to work with an experienced car wreck lawyer in Casper or Gilette, Wyoming. Without legal representation, you risk being blamed for the accident, even if you were not the offender.

How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident Case?

Insurance adjusters will determine responsibility in most accidents without taking the case to court. However, there are exceptions since some collisions make it easy to tell which driver is at fault without the adjuster’s insight, and a small percentage will require a jury to decide which driver is to blame. Even if you believe you are not to blame for the accident, you’ll want to hire an attorney following the collision.

Working with a car wreck lawyer will prevent you from being saddled with blame that isn’t yours. It will also ensure you receive the appropriate compensation for damaged property or injuries sustained during the event. The following methods are typically used to determine fault in a car accident:

Drivers’ Statements

Sometimes the offending driver is honest about their mistake and admits that they caused the accident. If that occurs, you will still want to collect their name and phone number, check their insurance and driver’s licenses, and take pictures of the scene. You’ll also want to note important details such as weather conditions and the other car’s make, model, and color.

Remember that you’ll want to be careful about what you say following the accident. After a crash, your emotions will be heightened and may cause you to say something that could be seen as admitting fault. Even if you are to blame for the accident, you will want to contact an attorney before accepting the blame for anything. Your lawyer will discuss the accident with you and advise you on how to handle the situation while being completely honest.

The Police Report

Once the police arrive at the accident, they will examine the vehicle damage and position. How the cars are situated usually makes it easy to ascertain who is at fault. However, the police will also question you, the other driver, and any witnesses. Factors such as if either driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, or using their cell phone while driving can influence which party is deemed to be at fault for the accident.

Although a police report is not infallible, it can play a significant role in determining fault. This importance is because both your and the at-fault party’s insurance company will read the report and use it to evaluate each driver’s responsibility for the crash. It can also affect the amount of money the injured driver receives as a  settlement.

The Insurance Adjusters’ Investigation

After you and the other driver have filed claims with your insurance companies, the insurers will evaluate who caused the accident. An insurance adjuster will be selected to work your claim, and they will collect information about the incident.

They will look at accident scene photos, contact witnesses, and read the police report. If the police report clearly states the at-fault party or one of the drivers accepts blame, it will be easy for the insurers to declare the responsible party.

Wyoming Law: Modified Comparative Negligence

Each state has specific laws regarding driver negligence. In this case, negligence refers to the driver’s responsibility for the crash. For example, Wyoming follows a modified comparative negligence law, which means you cannot seek compensation from the other driver if you are more than 50% responsible for the accident. Also known as the “51% bar,” this law prevents you from recovering damages if you are the at-fault party.

This law also decreases your compensation relative to the percentage you are at fault. That means if you were not entirely at fault, but your driving contributed to your damages or injuries, that percentage will be taken from your compensation. So if your actions contributed 25% to an accident that resulted in you being awarded $100,000, you would only receive 75%, or $75,000.

Through Arbitration

When your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company cannot arrive at a decision, your dispute will be passed to an arbitration service. Arbitration Forums Inc. is a privately owned company that decides which driver is responsible for the accident. Most major insurance companies use this business when they cannot reach an agreement.

In the Courtroom

Although most disputes are settled long before they reach the courtroom, sometimes cases involving significant damage or grievous injuries will require a court’s involvement. However, as jury trials are time-consuming and expensive, insurance companies typically prefer to settle outside court.

In addition, since a jury’s verdict is the final decision, you don’t want to go to trial unless you are confident it will benefit you. Therefore, having a savvy car accident lawyer on your team is crucial. Since insurance companies do not take you seriously when you represent yourself, you’ll want to have a professional in your corner.

Reasons to Hire a Car Wreck Lawyer in Casper or Gilette, Wyoming

They Manage the Adjusters

Since insurance adjusters are responsible for determining fault in most accidents, you’ll have to deal with them asking you questions about the accident. They will also attempt to trick you into saying something that places you in a poor light.

When you work with a lawyer in Gilette, Wyoming, they will field the insurance company’s calls. Not only does this prevent you from dealing with the stress of repeated questioning, but it also ensures that you don’t accidentally say something that hurts your claim.

They Evaluate Settlement Offers

Once the insurance companies have decided that you are not at fault for the accident, they will likely offer you a settlement. However, without a lawyer helping you evaluate your claim’s worth, you may be tempted to take the first proposed settlement and accept less than you deserve. Not only can a lawyer tell you if an offer is reasonable or not, but they can also negotiate with adjusters to get you the compensation you need.

They Will Investigate Negligence

Sometimes the information noted on the police report doesn’t tell the whole story. While the police officer should interview witnesses and look for the cause of the accident, that doesn’t always happen. If the police report doesn’t have enough detail to support your story, your lawyer will investigate the accident.

At Ochs Law Firm, our attorneys research every aspect of your case to allow us to develop the best legal strategy for your situation. By collecting more information about the accident, our lawyers can prove how the other driver’s actions contributed to the accident and how your actions did not.

They Understand State Laws

Successfully navigating the legal system is impossible for most people. A car accident attorney will ensure your paperwork is filed correctly and that your case is worth pursuing. They will also ensure you don’t miss any important filing deadlines that could cause your claim to be dismissed.

Regardless of your level of fault, having a seasoned lawyer on your side will benefit you as you determine your next steps following a car accident. No one should be saddled with blame for an accident that isn’t their fault, and you deserve compensation for the injuries and property damage caused by another person’s actions. Contact Ochs Law Firm today and find out how our experienced team can help you.

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Our experienced Wyoming personal injury lawyer, Jason E. Ochs will fight to help you recover proper compensation in a class action, pharmaceutical, and medical cases throughout multiple states. Contact us today.

Jason E. Ochs

Jason began his legal career in 2002 with a national multi-district litigation law firm in Newport Beach, California. There he worked on a variety of high-profile, complex-litigation projects including pharmaceutical and medical-device litigation across the country.

The Ochs Law Firm epitomizes professionalism and commitment to all of our clients, regardless of the size of the case or the might of the Defendant. We practice in Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and California in personal injury litigation, medical malpractice, defective products, class action lawsuits, Qui Tam lawsuits, litigation across multiple districts, bad faith insurance, and civil litigation.

We look forward to providing top quality service and representation for you and your family.